With the support of the RSA Travel Grant I was able to attend the 2013 Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS) Annual Conference – which was held in conjunction with the Annual Conference of the Western Social Science Association (WSSA) in Denver (Colorado). From April 10 to April 13 the topic of “Borders, Transnationalism and Globalization: Contradictions, Challenges and Resolutions” has been illuminated by 35 panels by more than 100 presenters from multiple perspectives as well as from multiple disciplinary backgrounds.
Beside the “normal” panels the programme was rounded off by several plenary sessions and special events. The brown bag lunch, where the award winning documentary “Paraiso for Sale” was shown as well as the lecture from Oscar Martinez (ABS Lifetime Achievement Award winner 2013), addressing the question “Ultimate Border Question: Why is my side poorer than yours?” have been my personal highlight of this conference.
In scientific terms, a particular focus – at least in the panels I have attended – was set on the impact of global trends on space (borderlands) and people (borderlanders) as well as on the consequent emerging regional responses from the bottom up. In so doing and on the basis of several case studies from all around the world, it has been demonstrated that borders frame social and political actions and are constructed through institutional and discursive practices at different levels and different actors. It has been argued that through regional responses to globalisation, borders are reproduced, for example, in situations of conflict where historical memories are mobilized to support territorial claims, to address past injustices or to strengthen group identity (often by perpetuating negative stereotypes of “the others”). Moreover it has been highlighted, that through new institutional and discursive practices contested borders can also be transformed into smbols of cooperation and of common historical heritage.
This conference has certainly expanded my knowledge and understanding of borders and borderlands and I am very keen on continuing to be a conference gateway keeper for the RSA in this particular research field.