RGS-IBG 2020 Call for Papers: Drawing the line. Theories and Practices of Boundary Delimitation in European and Colonial Territories (Eighteenth-Twentieth Century)

Organizers: Federico Ferretti (University College Dublin, federico.ferretti@ucd.ie), Jacobo García-Álvarez and Paloma Puente-Lozano (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid).


Recent geographical scholarship on territory, sovereignty and borders have pointed out the need for questioning and exposing in historical perspective a number of “myths” and “political fictions” embedded within modern state-making and its discursive and material makings. Within this theoretical framework, processes of boundary delimitation and demarcation have proved to be a particularly relevant locusfor examining the complex entanglements of modern conceptions and theories of territory, sovereignty and borders within practices of statehood.  This session aims at analyzing the complexities and variety of theories and practices of boundary-making across Europe and colonial territories from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and how they related to wider assumptions about sovereignty and statehood. We are especially interested in hearing about comparative methodologies and transnational approaches that allow for overcoming typical shortcomings of nation-centered historiographies, as well as in exploring the multiscalar nature of these processes of border-making and the heterogeneity of the actors involved in them.

We welcome presentations that align with these themes in diverse ways. This might include, but is not limited to the following topics:

-Cultures and traditions of delimitation and boundary-making across European or colonized/decolonized countries: variety of delimitation criteria, different organization and composition of boundary commissions, work dynamics and procedures in boundary-delimitation, etc.

-The role of geographic descriptions, maps, land surveys and other types of geographical knowledge in boundary-making practices and theories.

-Dynamics among actors involved in boundary-making (such as local communities, states representatives, technical experts) and the interplay of their conflicting territorial visions.

– Historical transformations of state territoriality and sovereignty.

-Conceptions of border, territory and sovereignty as displayed in demarcation processes.

-Methodological and epistemic issues involved in doing research on the history of territory.

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