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32nd International Geographical Congress, Conflicts evolving from (re)constructingregions and borders based on historic geographies, Cologne 2012‏

One reason for conflicts within and beyond nation states may be the existence of historic borders and regions which
become alive as so called phantom borders. Very obvious has been for example the development of the former
Yugoslavia towards a number of formerly existing historic spaces related to religious affiliations connected with
heavy conflicts after a time of over 40 years of the state of Yugoslavia. In the Ukraine an obvious divide between the
East and the West of Ukraine can be observed concerning different issues as languages (Russian, Ukrainian) or
geopolitical orientations (towards Russia or Europe) which evolve towards conflicts as for instance the struggle
about Ukrainian and Russian as official languages. These territories belonged to various power entities in different
times in the past and belong to the Ukraine today. Nowadays such historic territories do not exist as such anymore
but seem to remain as perhaps observed in voting behavior.
Looking at the given examples the historic constitution needs to be researched to understand the territorial and
social dynamics within the regions. Without analyzing the historic dynamics the existence of phantom regions and
potential evolving conflicts can not be explained sufficiently. Such phantom regions can and may lead to conflicts if
they question current nation states, existing and agreed borders, national belongings or cause disputes about space
and territory. Conflicts can be different as for example rather soft disputes about official languages but also stronger
once about calling for national independence of territories.
Knowing the relevance of historic geographies for causing potential conflicts the question occurs how and in what
way such phantom regions and borders are shaped and characterized on the one hand and how and why they are
(re)constructed and continued in certain situations and contexts on the other hand. Beyond that it is essential to
know how such phantom regions and borders lead to what kind of conflicts. And why and in what way do territorial
and spatial / social differences in one context lead towards conflicts and in others not.
The (re)construction of phantom regions and borders are seen in multiple dimensions. The reasons and processes
for such (re)constructions may be searched for in material structures and necessities of territorial space (e.g.
watersheds, infrastructures as railways), continuous social behavior of societal and individual actors (e.g. cultural
associations of displaced persons, retention of cultural traditions), remaining institutional and regulative structures by
politics and society (e.g. formation of ethnic groups within political parties, continuation in the application of
administrative / judicial regulations) but also in the handling of symbols and signs as maps, flags or architecture (e.g.
urban and regional spatial development structures, major buildings).
The (re)construction of phantom regions is also seen connected with a number of levels of societal action which
enhance or inhibit the processes of (re)constructions. First of all the practices of daily life on a local and regional
level dealing with the above mentioned dimensions of space (e.g. use of language, practices in schools and
universities) are relevant actions to look at for understanding (re)constructions of phantom regions. Second the
political practices and institutions framing the local and regional actions are a further level of action to look at. While
the first level is rather focused on social action and practices, the second level rather concerns political action and
practices dealing with the institutional framework of how to deal on a local, regional or national level with religions,
languages, ethnic groups, economic or social problems, etc. within nation states. Third, after all there exist a meta
level of societal action framing the local and regional practices of day to day life and the political institutional level
building institutions above that: For example normative ideas as the concept and image of Europe, the concept of a
Russian federation regarding for example the political actions in Ukraine or even the Habsburg Empire which still
seem to show effects, even it perished long ago.
The mentioned levels of societal and political actions may memorize historic dimensions and constellations of space
but also disremember them. The session therefore wants to invite and discuss empirical studies from different
contexts from all over the world and different nation states, which address one or all of the mentioned dimensions
and also levels of societal actions (re)constructing borders and regions. The session wants especially to discuss how
such (re)constructions have lead to conflicts in the past or may in the future. To explain phantom frontiers, it is
important to analyze different times and dynamics in history: phantom borders and regions do not come back
automatically the spatial division must be historicized. At the same time the empirical studies to be presented shall
theoretical reflect how to analyze and how to explain the occurrence of phantom regions and borders as potential
cause for conflict.
The session is and the organizers are associated with the BMBF funded joint research network “Phantomgrenzen in
Ostmitteleuropa” (Phantom Borders in Eastern and Central Europe) coordinated by the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin
Abstracts should be submitted to the submission system of the IGC (<>) by
January 8, 2012