The Wrocław Branch of the Polish Sociological Society, the Centre for Regional Research and Borderland Areas at the Institute of Sociology of the University of Wrocław, the Sociology of Ethnicity Section of the Polish Sociological Society in cooperation with the Wrocław Institute of Culture and the Contemporary Museum Wrocław cordially invite you to participate in Socioperception vol. 30. The meeting is entitled: “On borders, borderlands and their (in)crossing”.
Ewa Pluta – journalist, editor of the digital editions of the monthly „Pismo. Magazyn opinii”. Graduate of cultural studies and the Polish School of Reportage, scholarship holder of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the City of Warsaw – Wawer District. A fan of long-distance walks; initiator of the “Border” project – a reporter’s three-month walk along the eastern border of Poland, which resulted in the book “Rubież. Reportaż wędrowny’, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Dowody na Istnienie 2022.
dr hab. Kamilla Dolińska – sociologist, since the beginning of her professional work connected with the Department of Borderline Sociology at the University of Wrocław; member of the team of the Centre for Regional Research and Borderland Areas and vice-chair of the PTS Ethnicity Sociology Section. Her research interests focus on borders and borderlands, multiculturalism and issues of national and ethnic minorities. Co-author of the book „Cud pogranicza? Zgorzelczanie, gubinianie i słubiczanie o życiu w miastach podzielonych” (Kraków: Nomos 2018) and „Narracje o miastach podzielonych w Europie Środkowej: Słubice i Frankfurt nad Odrą oraz Cieszyn i Czeski Cieszyn” (Warsaw: Scholar 2022).
dr hab. Elżbieta Opiłowska, prof. UWr – sociologist, head of the Centre for Regional and Borderland Research at the Institute of Sociology, University of Wrocław. Graduate of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Leipzig University and the European University Viadrina. Her research and publications deal with borders and borderlands, Polish-German relations, Europeanisation, and collective memory. She has held numerous internships abroad, including at the UniGR-Center for Border Studies (University of Luxembourg) and the Robert Schuman Centre (European University Institute, Florence).
In the last two decades, we can speak of a border renaissance. The refugee crisis, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Polish-Belarusian border crisis and the war in Ukraine have brought borders back to the centre of public opinion. The resurgence of the border as a line separating sovereign states, the rise of nationalist movements, new social divisions, ethnic or religious exclusions – problems that seemed to fade in the optimistic vision of Europe’s development at the beginning of the 21st century have returned with redoubled force. These new processes pose a challenge not only to the political authorities, but have a particular impact on the lives of the inhabitants of the borderlands. It was the inhabitants of the Italian island of Lampedusa who had to cope with the fact that their beloved holiday destination had become the ‘gateway to Europe’ for thousands of refugees from Africa. It was the residents of Poland’s western border region who protested against the closure of the border due to the Covid-19 pandemic and their separation from their places of work, school or friends. Finally, it was the inhabitants of Poland’s eastern borderlands who organised aid for refugees who managed to break through the entanglements built on the Polish-Belarusian border, or the hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Ukraine.
Borderlands are special places – microcosms of global processes, ‘victims’ of big politics – where intercultural contacts and encounters with the ‘other’ are part of everyday life. Borderlands are places along territorial borders, but they are also social spaces constructed through practices, relations and discourses.
The aim of the meeting is to discuss the dynamics of change in borderlands from the perspective of their inhabitants – those who experience and (in)cross the border(s). Two projects, culminating in publications, provide an opportunity to do so. The first focuses on Poland’s eastern border – the ‘borderland of the European Union’ – which is the protagonist of Ewa Pluta’s book. The reporter travelled hundreds of kilometres to talk to borderland residents – a farmer from Sankur, a bishop from Mostowlan, a fortune teller from Opaka Duża or a retired teacher from Chomontowce. The aim of the second – scientific – project was to collect narratives about the border between Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, and to seek answers as to what it means to the inhabitants of the divided cities, and what the significance of (not) crossing it is to them. This is what Kamilla Dolińska, a participant in the project and co-author of the book, will talk about. During the discussion, we will confront not only two perspectives – that of a reporter and that of a scientist, but also two completely different borders – Poland’s western and southern borders – the internal border of the Schengen zone and the closely guarded external border of the European Union
Translated by Katarzyna Dorodna (student of English Studies at the University of Wrocław) as part of the translation practice.