LBI EHP coordinating researcher: Libora Oates-Indruchová (Vienna)
Affiliated researchers: Ulf Brunnbauer, Astrid M. Eckert, Roger Engelmann, Gabriela Ghindea, Friederike Kind-Kovács, Sabina Mihelj, Daniela Münkel, Alena Pfoser, Sagi Schaefer, Lavinia Stan, Tatiana Zhurzhenko.
The experience of Europeans in the second half of the last century was shaped by the subjection of a large part of the continent to communist rule and by the dividing line this created between East and West. It is in the regions and communities at the borders between, and within, the former “blocs” that this experience was perhaps the most acute. The geopolitical changes that followed in the wake of the revolutions of 1989 would have also been more dramatic in the proximity of these state borders. The enlargement of the EU and its “re-bordering” with regard to its Eastern neighbours brought about further disturbances. This historical process and its diverse representations have been central research interests of the LBI EHP since its foundation in 2005. In order to reconstruct the underlying transnational dynamics and their consequences the research project Border Communities combines the paradigms of everyday life history (Alltagsgeschichte) and collective memory studies.
If the imagery and narratives of the Iron Curtain connote “division”, then those of European integration connote “unity”: unity across borders to the point of dispensing with them altogether. In this project, we investigate the extent to which the tropes of Cold War divisions and EU unity or “borderlessness” hold when explored from below and up close. We examine the practices and memories of everyday life in border communities at the former Iron Curtain border, and also between the (former) Eastern Bloc countries. The investigation includes the following questions:
The project is anchored in local case studies, with each one covering a pair of neighbouring border communities or towns separated or divided by a state border– between and within the ideological blocs of East and West (see “Research locations”). The studies draw on oral history interviews, as well as on archival and local media research. The findings will contribute to the interdisciplinary field of border studies, as well as to our understanding of both European contemporary history and the relationship between everyday life, political discourses and collective memories.
The research toward this project is now completed. Several publications (special issues of journals and an edited volume) are being prepared.