The 1989/1991 demise of European communist regimes created a powerful impulse for the investigation of memory cultures at Cold War borders and, subsequently, for reflections on the creation of new European border regimes. The four studies included in this special section investigate these two processes on a micro level of their dynamics in new and old borderlands from the perspectives of history, anthropology and political science. At the same time, they explore the relations between the everyday life experience of borderland communities and larger historical and political processes, sometimes going back to the re-drawing of European borders in the aftermath of the First World War.
It is the hybrid nature of borders as at the same time separating and connecting (Anzaldúa 1987; Gupta and Fergusson 1997), as the place where “a transition between two worlds is most pronounced” (Van Gennep 1960 paraphrased in Berdahl 1999, 12) that makes them such an attractive and interdisciplinary site of research. It is of interest to geographers, historians, anthropologists, sociologists and other social scientists (e.g. Donnan and Wilson 1994; Anderson 1997; Ganster et al. 1997; Breysach, Paszek, and Tölle 2003; Wastl-Walter 2010). Daphne Berdahl sees boundaries as “symbols through which states, nations, and localities define themselves. They define at once territorial limits and sociocultural space” (Berdahl 1999, 3). Border research distinguishes between “border,” “bordering,” and “borderland” or “frontier” (the term first defined by Turner 1921). While borders connote a dividing line, borderlands connote an area, and bordering refers to the process of border- and borderland-creation. Borders are established through a three-stage process of allocation, delimitation and demarcation: a territory is first placed (allocated) under the jurisdiction of a government, then an imaginary line is drawn (delimited) on a map, and finally the boundary is marked with physical markers (demarcated) in the terrain (Sahlins 1989, 2). Borderlands or frontier zones are “privileged sites for the articulation of national distinctions” (Sahlins 1989, 271), and as such are places where difference is produced and institutionalized through territorial sovereignty, but also constantly renegotiated by multiple actors.