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Cultural Cooperation or Incorporation: Recollecting and Presenting Borderland Materiality at the External Border of the European Union

Karri Kiiskinen


This paper focuses on the role of culture in the narratives of bordering at the external border of the European Union. During the Soviet period, the present Polish-Ukrainian border was closed and historically this ceded borderland has been imagined as a "Borderland" with specific meaning for Poles. In the last decades it has become a contact zone between nations, discourses and social imaginaries. Here culture has become a resource for transcending national and EU borders, but the recent border changes, as well as those in the past, connect also with borderland materiality. The ways that material heritage and the border become part of bordering narratives, as a boundary object and border figure, suggest not only different connections established between the past and the present, but also diverse conceptualizations of border crossing culture and cross-border relations. In case of cross-border cooperation, material heritage is a resource that supports the values of cooperation, but makes the border invisible. At the same time, the border becomes part of presenting national cultures when immigrants are integrated into local communities. I argue, based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, that local actors in their bordering narratives, by their personal recollections of borderland materiality, suggest alternatives to such cross-border networking and presentations of cultural diversity. These recollections suggest negotiations of the border and the current processes of bordering, such as "cross-border" cooperation. Here material heritage can be a means for incorporating present diversity at home and for negotiating cultures at the border. The doing of border crossings is a means for engaging communities and may result in cultural incorporation. Such borderland multiculturalism relativizes the border on the individual and community level as well as implies Europeanization as a negotiation between the self and the European.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
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