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To Be or Not To Be a Part of Europe: Appropriations of the Symbolic Borders of Europe in Slovenia

Sabina Mihelj


The post-Cold-War transformation of Central and Eastern Europe involved a complex reconfiguration of existing collective identifications, territorial attachments and borders, which included both establishing new attachments and borders and dispensing with the old ones. This article traces this reconfiguration by looking at the case of Slovenia. After briefly sketching the transformation of symbolic attachments and borders during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the article analyses the appropriations of this new symbolic mapping in the public debates and immigration and citizenship policies related to the two major instances of immigration in Slovenia after the establishment of an independent Slovenian state in 1991: the arrival of Bosnian war refugees in 1992, and the increase in undocumented immigration in 2000-2001. Particular attention is paid to the conceptualization of borders, especially the relationships between symbolic and institutionalized borders. It is argued that state borders are far from being the sole institutional vehicle of the symbolic borders separating the Self from its Others. Policy measures regulating immigration function as an additional vehicle for these borders, and thus provide a complement to the institution of state borders: if the state border marks the perceived territorial borders of the Self, the immigration-related policy measures serve to maintain the perceived population borders distinguishing the Self from its Other(s).

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229