Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION

Turkey’s Changing Borders and the European Continental Order

  • Dr. Burcu Gültekin Punsmann,

The research project focuses on Turkey's eastern and southern borders in a comparative perspective since the end of the Cold War. Turkey is a region which is in flux: the world it used to live in, compartmentalized into fixed state shapes and closed territories, vanished at the end of the Cold War.

The project aims to contribute conceptually to discussions on the political construction of identities and territorial socialization, ethno-regionalism and ethno-nationalism and on boundary making in border regions with interface minorities. The approach includes a historical perspective and studies territories and boundaries within a dynamic process. The analysis refers to the economic, political or psychological processes occurring in border areas. It assesses flows and interactions and tries to deconstruct the meanings of boundaries in connection with territorial symbolism and the everyday construction of borders through ideology, discourses, political institutions, attitudes and agency. The project will analyze the role of boundaries in the construction of socio-spatial identities, boundary narratives and discourses, the pattern of cross-border cooperation and interactions. It will furthermore add a geopolitical outlook to the above mentioned post modern analysis grid and it will combine micro level analysis with macro-level dynamics. It will allow the integration of a human security perspective to the debate around regional security and reconciliation.

The study of Turkey’s borders and border regions will help to better understand dynamics likely to shape the Caucasian and Middle Eastern societies and politics and to highlight the way the EU will relate to these geographies. Special attention will be paid to Armenian, ethnic Caucasian, Kurdish and Syrian minority narratives within the wider Turkish national context as well as within the more specific borderland formation processes.

A comparative analysis will integrate the learnings derived from the German-Polish experience in changing the functions and meanings of borders and transforming them from conflict lines to sites of reconciliation, encounter, exchange and learning. The analysis will re-evaluate the relevance of approaches which were inspired by cross-border cooperation in the light of the securitization discourse that develops in the context of the Syrian and Iraqi crisis. This securitization dicourse led to the construction of physical barriers to the movement of people which took the form of concrete walls and barbed wires on Turkey’s EU-border as well as Middle Eastern borders and even within European Union.

Furthermore, the project aims at contributing to the scholarly work and policy debates on peace/stability in Europe at a continental level and to look at historical and geographical reconciliation processes, borders, and regional integration. The outlook will be pan-European and look at border dynamics, on the one hand at the ‘center’ of the continent specifically focused on Germany and more particularly on the German-Polish borderland, and on the other hand at its ‘margins’, on Turkey’s borderlands. The linkage between dynamics at work at the center and peripheries of the continent will help to shed light at transnational challenges that require regional solutions.