Call for Papers

Symposium on Bridging the Regions and Disciplines in Border Studies 

Tallinn University, January 18-20, 2024

Tallinn, Estonia

The study of borders in the social sciences and humanities is closely connected to ongoing socio- and geo-political processes, and since the 1990s, particular events are repeatedly listed as the source for reinvigorated scholarly interest in borders. These include the early trumpeting of a (neoliberal) borderless world demanding critical re-examination, the re- and de-bordering in Europe, the post 9/11 war on terror, and the immigration and refugee “crises” in Europe and the US. What is noticeable is how Western-centric such historical and political experiences feeding into border theories are, and how these theories largely ignore parallel developments in the Global South. Thus, an array of dynamic socio-political developments, from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to India’s Act East Policy, or the perseverance of non-state spaces in many places in the world, remain marginal to the historical and intellectual genealogies of border studies. 

This disconnection has important consequences. For example, when Anglo-American scholars ‘discovered’ the porosity of borders as something novel after the Cold War ended in Europe, many previously porous borders in Asia  were witnessing more demarcation, militarization and state presence. Or, while today there are critical calls to shift research agendas from EU security-led re-bordering studies to also seeing borders as a resource, thriving Asian borderlands research has presented ample studies for a decade on creative ways of exploiting the opportunities that borders have generated. Thus, border-related themes of interest between Anglo-American and Asian scholarly research are out of sync, while it is difficult for the latter to penetrate the “mainstream” scholarship. 

Our connected world demands a more global approach to understanding various forms and spaces of bordering, as we are likely to face more COVID-like epidemics and uncertainties resulting from climate change, the hasty advancement of new technologies, and enhanced mobilities and connectivities. We need more cross-fertilization of research not only across regions but also across disciplines to understand the unfolding of political and socio-cultural bordering in societies where borderwork has increasingly moved to multi-dimensional spaces – from skies and seas to various virtual domains. The aim of the symposium is thus to bridge the thriving regional and disciplinary scholarship in border studies to critically address unfolding global challenges. 


Themes for papers/panels

Conference organizers encourage panels and papers in line with the following themes and guidelines:

  1. Panels exploring and connecting trans-regional research

In order to systematically address regional divides in border studies, establish trans-regional conversations, and cross-fertilize perspectives, we invite panel proposals that deliberately include presentations of empirical border(ing) research from both the EU/US and Asia (and ideally, beyond). We call upon panel organizers to make further efforts to bring diverse regions of research into conversation through common themes, conceptualizations or methodologies.  

  1. Individual papers testing recent theoretical approaches across regions 

We invite individual papers deploying recent conceptualizations in border studies outside their original context—e.g. in new regional or disciplinary settings. Such conceptualizations may focus on—but need not be limited to—borderscaping, borderities, mobile borders, biological borders, semiotic boundaries, i- and e-bordering, post-socialist/colonial borders, geo-bodies, Zomia, and border topologies.

  1. Papers/panels on new original research on volumetric bordering (i.e. bordering in the air, seas and virtual space).

We invite panels/papers studying how practices in airspace and marine spaces are bordered (and territorialized), or how virtual (state) practices extend beyond physical boundaries and spaces, or how digital ecosystems re-shape state and bordering practices.

  1. Presentations on practicing borders

We invite panels/papers testing conceptualizations on borders/bordering for applicability in policy/practice, examining how trans-regional border management cooperation shapes bordering practices in Europe/Asia, scrutinizing multiple responses to the most recent restrictions on mobilities; exposing the gap between bordering in theory and practice. Practitioners and other non-academic professionals (e.g., journalists, practitioners from civil society, photographers, film-makers, etc.) are encouraged to apply!


Keynotes Speakers

The conference features three keynote speakers:

James W. Scott, University of Eastern Finland

Swargajyoti Gohain, Ashoka University

Others TBA



Panel proposals: a short description of the panel (max 250 words) and abstracts for each individual paper (max 250 words). We suggest three to four papers per panel—deadline May 30, 2023 

Paper proposals: abstract (max 500 words)—deadline May 30, 2023 

Selected panels/papers will be announced to applicants on June 20, 2023.


Outputs of the Symposium

A special issue in a leading peer reviewed journal and/or an edited volume is planned as the major academic output of the workshop. The Eur-Asian Border Lab will post reports and blog entries on its website and social media channels about the symposium. 



The symposium will have live panels with paper presentations and discussion led by a designated discussant (panel organizers have the option to propose their own discussant). On-site participation is the preferred option; a hybrid option is available with a pre-recorded presentation and the presenter participating remotely in a live discussion. 


An optional field trip to the Russian border will be organized (with transport costs paid). Lunches, coffee breaks and a conference dinner will be covered for the accepted participants. The symposium will also feature exhibitions, practitioner panels and film presentations.



The Eur-Asian Border Lab (, run by Tallinn University, the University of Eastern Finland, and the University of Amsterdam. 



The Eur-Asian Border Lab and the symposium are a part of the project “Advancing Trans-Regional Border Studies” funded by the EU / HORIZON-WIDERA-2021-ACCESS-03 grant. Some travel grants are available for participants in difficult (financial) situations: please send us a letter of justification via email if requesting financial support when applying. 




For any inquiries or questions, please contact or Karin Dean at