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Association for Borderlands Studies 2nd World Conference –
University of Vienna/Central European University Budapest, 10th-14th July 2018

The fourth day of the Association for Borderlands Studies World Conference took place at Central European University in Budapest. Akihiro Iwashita and Jaroslaw Janczak (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan & European University Viadrina, Frankfurt) organised the panel ‘Commemorating Modernity? Touring Borders in the 21st Century’. Attended by approximately 30 people, the panel was one of the most well attended over the four days of presentations. The concept of the panel was to discuss cases of border tourism in Europe and Asia. Previous research focussed primarily on the former so Akihiro Iwashita’s contribution was eagerly anticipated.

 The subject of Iwashita’s presentation was using border tourism to remake the image of the border. While scholars have long viewed borders as ‘gateways’, such an understanding has yet to be disseminated among the public. Following this introduction Iwashita invited the audience on a ‘tour of the China-Russia borderlands’.

              The focus of the presentation was on the tours that Iwashita has led to the China-Russia border in Northeast Asia. Noting that his tour was perhaps the first border tour in history, Iwashita explained that Russia’s decision to allow foreigners to visit borderlands ‘was an amazing change’. He recalled his own experience of Russian border guards detaining and questioning him. He was reminded of this when he saw the guard post now open to tourists.

              Iwashita concluded by explaining that although borders can be places of conflict they can also change to become ‘happy places through border tourism’. While border tourism might be more advanced in Europe, there are opportunities in Asia, too.

              Iwashita’s presentation was followed by three papers concerned with different European countries. Javier Martin-Uceda (Universitat de Girona) talked about the fascinating example of border tourism across the Spanish/Catalan/French border. In particular, tourism was making use of the regions rich connection with twentieth century literature by the likes of Walter Benjamin and Antonio Machado. Mountain trails based on the treks of exiles meant that the memory of the Spanish Civil War was now being incorporated into border tourism for the first time.

              Dorte Jagetic Andersen and Ingo Winkler (University of Southern Denmark) presented their research on cross-border commuting at the German-Danish border. Their presentation style, with Winkler presenting a ‘Talking Heads’ style border commuter’s story, and Andersen giving an analysis of different commuters’ experiences was particularly engaging. Janczak’s paper concluded the panel and he emphasised how border tourism often works through an ‘exoticisation’ of the borderlands. Such exoticisation can be necessary to create economic benefits through branding and establishing a ‘product’.

              The audience asked numerous questions including observations about how borders, despite the optimism of border tourism, still often remain sites of antagonism. In his concluding remarks, Iwashita dealt especially effectively with this point by discussing how – from an Asian perspective – borders often go back and forth between cooperation and conflict. The process of encouraging greater cooperation is not a smooth one despite what some of the leading researchers might claim. Through border tourism the process can be moved in the right direction.

Papers presented
Iwashita, Akihiro, ‘Featuring Borders as a New Tool beyond the Confrontation: A Tour from Japan to Russia via China’
Martin-Uceda, Javier, ‘De-bordering process in Catalan borderland area: a symbolic meaning change’
Andersen, Dorte Jagetic and Ingo Winkler, ‘Confessions of a Cross-border Commuter’
Janczak, Jaroslaw, ‘Visiting borders in Europe: border twin towns as touristic attractions’





Border Studies and thinking BIG – Professor Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly’s UBRJ seminar

Not only practitioners of Border Studies but also producers of policy have much to gain from thinking BIG was the gist of Professor Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly’s (University of Victoria, Canada) presentation at the recently organised UBRJ seminar. BIG is the catchy sounding acronym for Borders in Globalization of which Professor Brunet-Jailly is the director. Twenty-five teams based in 15 countries make up the project which comprises 63 researchers and 154 students. Supported mostly by a multi-million Canadian dollar grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the speaker explained some of the project’s latest research to a twenty-strong audience.

              The two main aims of BIG are 1) to destabilize understandings of borders as ‘territorial power containers’ and 2) to rethink borders as defined by ‘bordering flows’. The speaker neatly summarised the meaning of territorial power containers as the idea that each state is a ‘castle’ with high walls protecting it from external threats. Such an idea gives the illusion of the rule of states. Bordering flows are what the speaker envisions as disturbing this illusion. Professor Brunet-Jailly gave the example of an industry dominated by one or two large firms. The firms’ operations might be located in two different states. Because the regulatory framework adjusts so that standards become similar across the border, actual boundary lines become irrelevant. The speaker’s bigger point was that the private sector is increasingly involved in developing standards and then lobbying governments. Policy-making is becoming ever more complex and the boundaries and territories that organise the world are starting to fragment. Such is the brave new world borders in globalization are forming.

              Professor Brunet-Jailly’s talk generated a lively discussion with the audience. Questions ranged from the historical (how ‘new’ are such bordering processes considering that empires have been in the business of standardizing norms for hundreds of years?) to the contemporary (what is the role of economic value in influencing how much attention a borderland receives?). The seminar finished with an exchange about the future of border studies with one of the attendees imploring funding bodies in Japan to think of borders as having a contribution to make to the current demand for ‘global studies’. Learning about Professor Brunet-Jailly’s research was therefore a useful prompt to the audience to think big when trying to make that intervention.

(Jonathan Bull)




Eurasia Border Review Vol.8 No.1 (Fall 2017) published

The latest issue of Eurasia Border Review has been published by the Eurasia Unit for Border Research of Japan (UBRJ).


All papers can be downloaded from here.


We are looking for articles and book reviews for the next edition due to be published later this year. If you are interested, please contact the editorial department (j_e_bull[at] (replace [at] with @).




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