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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities


BORDERscape is a joint project of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Oregon State University, the University of Warsaw and the University of Washington. This consortium currently applies for an ATLANTIS grant from the EU and FIPSE.

BORDERscape develops joint curricula and teaching formats for issues in border society, culture and policy education. The following issues are of specific interest to us:

Due to the accelerated processes of globalization and global migration, questions related to national borders, supra-national borders (such as Schengen) but also internal/regional borders are high on the political, social, cultural and educational agendas. These agendas include

·         the dissolution of traditional borders in terms of financial and economic realities as witnessed in the late crisis

·         the reassertion of national borders as a result of post 9/11 security concerns

·         the reassertion of national policies in the responses to the economic crisis

·         the emergence of new internal or regional borders in the context of partial sovereignties, regionalisms and separatist movements and diasporas.

In addition to these discordant phenomena, borders have long been in a process of re-definition or even re-formation in answer to economic (NAFTA, European Union, ASEAN) or political (Schengen, NATO) interests. Moreover, trans-border phenomena as diverse as cross-border spaces (the Baltic, the Salish Sea or Puget Sound etc.) and populations (Sinti and Roma, American Indians and First Nations etc.), migration, cross-cultural contacts and influences, transnational social movements, environmental and climate transformations as well as health issues have always informed the definitions, imaginations and realities of borders - even though today scholars and scientists make out a multiplication of migratory movements and an acceleration of migration patterns. Skilled professionals trained to conceptualize, critically reflect and manage the increasingly complex trans-border policy issues are in high demand.

The following, fundamentally interrelated concerns (to be reflected in the specializations and symposia within the four years program of BORDERscape) result from these contexts:

A. National Borders, (trans)national identities, citizenship and belonging

The urgency of border studies resides in the paradox reality of simultaneous globalization and localization (glocalization): on the one hand national borders have become porous and partially irrelevant, on the other hand they have reasserted themselves forcefully. This paradox must be understood in the context of the extensions and limitations of economic globalization across a range of areas, i.e. material and financial goods and resources, labor mobility, migration, the movement of information, etc. Increasing flows across these areas have at times fueled ideological and social backlashes (e.g. anti-immigration parties, etc.), phenomena posing serious challenges to political systems and continued globalization. They have also helped engender new senses of citizenship, belonging and multiple loyalties, which in turn transform national identities. The partial dissolution of borders has produced the establishment of new supranational, internal and symbolic borders (trade blocs, bi-national zones, diasporas etc.). The BORDERscapes project seeks to help students make greater sense of these often contradictory, yet crucial, processes of the modern world.

B. Minorities, migration, diasporas and borders

Borders create, inhibit and condition migratory flows motivated by the desire for both political and economic freedom. In addition to existing minority populations with partial sovereignty (American Indians in the US, First Nations in Canada, the Sorbs and Danish minorities in Germany), evolving borderland populations or populations within bi-national cultural zones (as between the US and Mexico) and immigrant populations (first, second or third generation, diasporic or other) as well as other minority populations such as the Sinti and Roma in Europe, who have also been forcely evicted, have transformed the idea of a nation at large and created specific regional identities as well as cross-cultural identities. Culturally hybrid languages, literatures and institutions have emerged and shifted the patterns and models of racial, ethnic, social and cultural diversity. Cross-border influences and border transgressions have become major topics in cultural practices. Migratory flows have become policy issues not least in rural regions (as witnessed in Oregon) and have transformed the geography, educational policies and institutional organization in urban spaces. The human costs of border re-alignments or re-enforcements (Schengen, US-Mexican borderlands) and the concomitant militarizations of borders (including the phenomenon of the "minutemen") are highly problematic effects of border security and border policing. The BORDERscape project seeks to enable students to grasp the specific perspectives of these populations.


C. Borders of the mind, race, ethnicities, genders and sexualities

External and internal borders create differences in terms of definitions, policies and mindsets concerning race, ethnicities, gender roles and sexual differences. At the same time borders promise (or threaten) different opportunities (and costs) according to race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Violence against women (often: of color) is a constant problem of border realities. While sex and child trafficking across external borders are important transnational policy issues, attitudes towards race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality across internal borders are an increasing, contentious issue within countries. In this sense material borders and symbolic borders interact with each other. The deterritorialization of cultural communities and what has come to be known as the feminization of migration has exerted pressure on ideas of purity relating to race, ethnicity as well as gender identities. At the same time the partial erosion of borders also leads to various kinds of racial, ethnic and gender nostalgia, longing to reestablish fixed standards, for instance, of ethnic affiliation, of masculinity and femininity. BORDERscape aims at heightening the awareness for these ambivalent effects of borders and border erosion.

D. Borders, health, sustainability and the environment

Environmental issues are naturally blind to borders, while borders fundamentally complicate environmental policies. The spatial configurations of geographical formations do not adhere to the logics of borders as various trans-national regions such as the Salish Sea, the EU Baltic Sea Region and others attest to. Transnational and cross-border policies are necessary in order to control pollution, the threat to biodiversity, global warming and other hazards. The same applies to the goal of sustainable growth and sustainable regional conditions. Environmental problems are one aspect of the health issues connected to borders. Other important issues are immigrant-specific health care and health services for immigrants as challenges for education and education policies as well as health concerns of non-legal aliens. Medical tourism is a further concern with growing significance. BORDERscape helps students explore the implications of these conditions and developments.

To get a first impression of the BORDERscape exchange plans, click (here).