Phantom Spaces and Borders – Continuities and Discontinuities of Past State and Imperial Structures

Project Coordinator: Dr. Sabine von Löwis

Election results, architecture, birth statistics: these and many other social and political indicators bear witness to socio-spatial and political systems that existed in the past. Not least, the division of Germany and its legacies, visible in economic structures, availability of social amenities such as pre-schools, and in political attitudes and religious beliefs, are still a frequent topic of debate, even though – or perhaps because – 30 years have passed since the Berlin Wall came down.

This raises questions about the meaning and interpretation of these traces of the past, and not only in Germany. A similar situation can be found elsewhere, particularly in Eastern Europe, where – over the past 150 years – borders and territorial configurations have frequently changed and new states have evolved out of old countries and empires. One example is Poland, where past territorial changes have often made themselves felt in election results since 1989. Based on the “phantom borders” concept (Hirschhausen et al. 2014), the meanings of diverse traces of the past, such as the use and development of space, norms and institutions, cultural representations, and social and political behaviour, are analysed within the project framework and explained in terms of spatial and social theory. As regards its methodology, the project critically examines some frequent historical and territorial determinisms and looks for explanations mainly in current events, social developments and historical configurations.