European Borderlands: Living with Barriers and Bridges
Published on Friday, 27 January 2017
The expectations of European planners for the gradual disappearance of national borders, and the corresponding prognoses of social scientists, have turned out to be over-optimistic. Borders have not disappeared – not even in a unified and predominantly peaceful Europe – but rather they have changed, become more varied and, in a certain sense, mobile, taking on an important role in the everyday lives of more people than ever before. Furthermore, it is now widely accepted that borders do not just hinder communication and the formation of relationships, but also channel and prefigure them in a positive way. Presenting a number of studies of everyday life in European borderlands, this book addresses the multifarious and complex ways in which borders function as both barriers and bridges. Focusing on ‘established’ Western European borderlands – with the exception of three contrasting cases – the book attempts a turn from conflict to harmony in the study of borderlands and thus examines the more mundane manifestations of border life and the complex, often unconscious motives of everyday cross-border practices.
The collection of chapters demonstrates that even in the case of ‘open’ political borders, the border remains an enduring factor that is not adequately described as either a problematic barrier or a desirable bridge. The studies look at bordering processes, not only approaching them from different disciplinary angles – sociology, anthropology, geography, history, political science and literary studies – but also choosing different scales and making comparisons that range from different borders of one country to the reactions and attitudes of different individuals in a single borderland village.
Elisabeth Boesen is Senior Researcher at the University of Luxembourg's Institute of History, Luxembourg.