The (im)penetrable Barriers: Borders and Migrations in History – Fourth biennial conference in the series Past, Present, Future (Pula, Croatia, May 21 – 23, 2020)
Borders and migrations have been an ever-present feature of news headlines in Western media outlets since the onset of the European migrant crisis in 2015 accompanied by its counterpart in North America. The ongoing debate in the European Union and in the United States regarding the issue of migration brought the focus back on boundaries and frontiers at a time when, at least in EU, the general tendency was to do away with national borders with the expansion of the Shengen Area to Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Recently, the Shengenen has been suspended in a number of EU countries as the national governments seek to address the issue of migration towards Europe from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with some even resurrecting the term “Fortress Europe” in this context.
Migrations are a geographically and chronologically ubiquitous phenomenon, one we can trace in the sources from the dawn of civilization. The movements of individuals, clans, tribes and nations has brought down empires, but also given birth to them. The Sea Peoples are reputed to have caused the Bronze Age Collapse, the Germanic Barbarians played a vital part in the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the steppe tribes like the Magyars, Huns or Mongols left a significant mark on the history of Europe and Asia. Some vanished in the annals of history like the Huns or Avars, others founded new states and nations like the Germans or Hungarians. In recent times, the migrations adopted an economic character. The migrations to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries or of Turks and South Slavs to Germany in the second half of the 20th century were primarily motivated by poverty and unemployment. These latest migrations that sparked the aforementioned crises are considered to be humanitarian in nature, with vast numbers of peoples displaced from war zones, a phenomenon similar to what was happening along the Ottoman/Christian border in Early Modern Times.
Borders, boundaries and frontiers are topics closely related to migrations as the function of a boundary is to delineate groups, to set a perimeter dividing “us” from “them, or better said “ours” from “theirs”. Although we tend to imagine boundaries today in terms of precise lines and check points, this is a relatively modern invention. In our past, one can speak more of frontiers and zones of contact where a territory is no longer clearly “ours”, but not yet “theirs” either. These zones were a place where cultures met, communicated and even melted, allowing for a smoother transition between neighbouring cultures and entities.
The aim of the conference is to look at both of these topics that are very relevant for the world today. We wish to explore migrations, the movements of peoples across tribal, state, national and other boundaries, whether peaceful or bellicose, but also to look at how boundaries and frontiers changed over time. Ideally, the intersection between the two will provide us with opportunities to learn from the examples from our past to better explain the issues we face today.
We invite historians and scholars of related disciplines to apply by submitting a proposal for a paper (up to 1500 characters) with an accompanying brief biographical note to email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org) by January 31, 2020 on topics relating to migrations and/or boundaries from Antiquity to contemporary times. Submissions from PhD students are also welcome. The papers should be approximately 15 minutes in length and sessions will include ample time for discussion. The working language of the conference is English.
Applicants will be notified about the acceptance of their proposal by February 7 and receive further information. The registration fee is 60 Euros (30 Euros for PhD students). Meals (lunches and dinners throughout the conference) will be provided by the Organizer.
We are looking forward to your proposals and your participation at the conference.
Robert Kurelić, PhD
Head of the Organizing Committee