Association for Borderlands Studies Europe Conference 2016

The Association for Borderlands Studies Europe Conference 2016 was held at the University of Luxembourg from 4-7 October, organised in conjunction with the UniGR-Center for Border Studies. The guiding topic of ‘Differences and Discontinuities in a “Europe without borders’ was selected in 2014, but has not become any less relevant: the political and social events of recent years have pushed aside the idea of a Europe without borders and prompted a border revival.



These are not always territorial borders, but also (or even primarily) include invisible borders which operate as economic, social or cultural differences and discontinuities. The two keynote speakers Anne-Laure Szary (Grenoble-Alpes University) and Ulrike Hanna Meinhof (University of Southampton) examined the significance of non-territorial borders in particular and highlighted the role played by scientists and academics in investigating social phenomena.

During the four-day conference, approximately 100 participants discussed borders, differences and discontinuities in their various manifestations across a total of 18 paper sessions, structured around four key topics: mobility and multilocality, multilingualism and diversity, growth and sustainability, and instability and change. The programme also included four excursions, with experts taking conference participants to explore the border areas between Luxembourg and Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, and Germany and France. A particular highlight was the conference dinner, part of a boat tour within the border triangle around the famous Luxembourg village of Schengen.

Video Clip documenting the ABS Europe Conference 2016

ABS Europe Conference 2016

This month, our Faculty and the UniGR-Center for Border Studies hosted the the Europe Conference of the Association for Borderland Studies. The participants shared their vision of a ‘Europe without borders’.

Posted by Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education on Mittwoch, 19. Oktober 2016


The work achieved was summarised by the participants in the concluding panel. They highlighted the following points as key to the further development of border studies:

Focus on non-territorial borders: The categories of difference and discontinuity also enable to investigate border demarcation processes in everyday cultural research contexts and allow a greater depth of complexity. However, a focus on non-territorial borders does not supersede the territorial dimension, as differences and discontinuities still have a constant relationship with national and spatial borders. Greater awareness of non-territorial borders helps to create a better understanding of border demarcation processes, vital given the gradual divergences anticipated in Europe.

Further opening to other disciplines: Greater consideration of non-territorial borders requires border studies to open up further to other disciplines. This exchange and dialogue should in particular be with disciplines which primarily deal with the phenomenon of ‘in-between’ and already have suitable conceptual and investigatory tools.

Decentration of borders: The categories of difference and discontinuity reinforce the process perspective involved in investigating border demarcations and border relativisations. Rather than allowing the border to be a subject, they instead enable it to be understood and examined as a multidisciplinary process which materialises in the form of visible borders. This altered analytical perspective allows border studies to also explore border demarcations and border relativisations within national societies.

Comparative perspective and stronger theoretical foundation: The field of border studies is characterised by what has now become an unmanageable number of empirical studies in various different spatial study contexts. In the future, the knowledge thus attained should be subject to greater interconnection from a comparative perspective, in order to gain a better understanding of border demarcations and border relativisations. In addition, this seems to offer the possibility of generating further theoretical foundations and thus positioning border studies on a solid theoretical base.

Strengthening critical perspectives: Taking a critical perspective on the investigation of border demarcation processes is vital, in particular given current events in Europe. This perspective involves considering the role of scientists and academics in the research process and the communication of research findings. It also relates to the development of research questions, which should demonstrate greater sensitivity to the balance of power as well as to the exploitation of (constructed) differences and discontinuities.

The Association for Borderlands Studies’ next Europe Conference will form part of the ABS World Conference 2018 in Vienna/Budapest.