The idea of an interdisciplinary workshop focusing on Turkey while promoting the theoretical exploration of borders and boundaries was stimulated by the incentive of linking the different research directions of the British institute at Ankara, spanning from Archaeology and History to Anthropology and Political Science. In discussions on ongoing research it became apparent that the different scholarly fields represented at the BIAA were using similar conceptual tools to examine diverse subject areas.
Emma (an archaeologist) and Leonidas (a political scientist) realised that borders/boundaries are their shared area of interest while working on themes as different as prehistoric material culture and contemporary politics of reconciliation.
Boundaries are a powerful defining feature in human society, they can separate, unite and catalyze change, they are an area of conflict, of friendship and of trade. Theorizing the role of borders, both in the past and present, and understanding the role that they played and continue to play in the construction of social identity, is important across a wide range of academic disciplines.
Indeed, in the last few years the importance of studying borders and boundaries has become more than apparent. Research on the subject has been flourishing, responding to the pressing need to understand complex contemporary processes where borders become, at the same time, more fluid for some and more rigid for others. Work undertaken by research institutes or groups like the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research in the Netherlands, has been feeding significant contributions into the debate on case studies and analyses of contemporary border making and unmaking processes. On the other hand, a fresh push has been given to conceptual work that aims at producing new theoretical perspectives to look through or at borders. The recently completed project EastborderNet has been a hub for the moulding of such new interdisciplinary perspectives by looking not only at obvious positions of borders but also at what Sarah Green (2009) calls their ‘traces and tidemarks’.
This workshop focuses on three main targets. First aiming to expand the scope of interdisciplinary discussions on borders and boundaries between scholarly fields that do not usually ‘meet’ at the panels of workshops and conferences. In fact, borders and boundaries can be seen as defining the field of scholarly work and research; they can appear as disciplinary divisions, separating spheres of expertise but also enabling innovative exchange and cooperation.
Second, stressing the dynamic diachronic processes of making and unmaking borders. This means focusing on transformations, continuities and discontinuities, but also exploring how borders can be time-related, representing the dilemmas arising from the distance between the ‘text’ and the ‘field’, between our object of study and our representations of it.
Finally, but most significantly, we aim at fostering the diffusion of such an interdisciplinary, mutually beneficial dialogue with a broad perspective on border and boundary studies in Turkey, and with a special focus on Turkey. ‘Turkey’ is approached in its widest and most stretched sense connoting both the modern state/nation/society, as a place imagined from different viewpoints, and also the space/territory/land marked by the traces of pre- and proto-historic, Classical, Byzantine, Ottoman or contemporary histories. In other words the main idea for the workshop is to think borders through Turkey and also think Turkey through borders.
The workshop is an ideal environment in which to encourage unrestricted and open exchange of ideas between the various scholarly fields that are represented. We aim to encourage this communication and the exploration of commonalities that will lead to new perspectives on such an important topic. The response to the call for abstracts was enthusiastic, intensively interdisciplinary and international; the passion shown by the participants thus far indicates that there will be a lively, innovative dialogue between scholars whose paths may otherwise not have crossed.
We hope that the workshop, and the subsequent publication, lead to a lasting discourse and a broadening of horizons of all those in the social sciences who work on borders and boundaries.
Emma Baysal | Leonidas Karakatsanis