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Retrospective Spring 2020: The COVID-19 Border Closure

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Published on Tuesday, 16 March 2021

A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive and abrupt border closures. Especially the Greater Region with its close interconnections was affected: students, cross-border workers, families or other commuters at the border experienced the separation as a significant cut in their professional and everyday life. The UniGR-Center for Border Studies (UniGR-CBS) looks back on the border closures, which are still being debated.

The UniGR-CBS in discussion with the photographer Marco Kany

In March and April 2020, Marco Kany documented the borders between Saarland and Grand Est. The series of photographs shows until then unthinkable images in the Greater Region and how people lived with closed borders. Now – one year later – the UniGR-CBS talked to the photographer from Saarland. In the resulting video "Border Closures 2020" Marco Kany explains his motivation and experiences during the photo expedition along the border. The video and series of photographs are available on the UniGR-CBS website (Border Gallery).


The UniGR-CBS gives insights into the COVID-19 lockdown

In spring 2020, the UniGR-CBS researchers processed their observations in the light of the still recent border closures. The resulting publication with German, French and English contributions provides insights into the question how the global pandemic was experiences and also considers social and health-related boundaries. The thematic issue "Bordering in Pandemic Times" is available in open access download on the UniGR-CBS website.

In addition, the UniGR-CBS published analysis on everyday life in Saarland during the lockdown and on language techniques used in public discourse to blame countries for the viral disease. The results are available online in the UniGR-CBS Working Papers "Corona Times, Corona Spaces" and "The pandemic of nationalism and the nationalism of pandemics".

The UniGR-CBS already organised a public roundtable on border closures in May 2020. The online event "Border realities in the Greater Region in times of the pandemic" with 100 participants was recorded and is available for replay on the UniGR-CBS website (video gallery).

Outlook: German-French Perspectives

In an edited book, UniGR-CBS member Florian Weber (Saarland University), together with Karl Terrollion (Head of the Saarland Office in Paris) and Roland Theis (Commissioner for European Affairs of the Saarland), reviews the 2020’s events at the Franco-German border. The contributing authors from the UniGR-CBS as well as from politics, economy, health and culture want to draw lessons for the future from the experiences made. The book "Grenzerfahrungen | Expériences transfrontalières. COVID-19 und die deutsch-französischen Beziehungen" will be published in summer 2021.