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Walking Borders, Risk and Belonging: advances in ethno-mimetic research in the making and re-making of three European borders

Many of the associated challenges with Europe’s borders, in critical border studies, relate to border security concerns, especially in relation to ‘unregulated’ migration, increasing nationalism, the risks of soft or porous borders, as well as the impact of the war in the Ukraine, and the impact of UK exit from the EU on trade and trade routes. The enormity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at various European borders, including the border of Poland and Ukraine, is witnessed acutely in the borderlands and in those receiving countries. The Russian war on Ukraine has led to Europe’s largest refugee crisis since the second world war, and the war in and break-up of Yugoslavia. An important contribution of this research is to open up horizons for research, knowledge, understanding and teaching and learning, from an ‘ethno-mimetic’ (O’Neill 2001, Cantwell 1993) approach (a combination of ethnographic, biographical and arts based research) that involves documenting and writing the biography of three borders ‘from below’ as well as to impact on policy, through a policy report, policy briefing, exhibition and a curriculum contribution to second level sociological education.

Working collaboratively in interdisciplinary ways across sociology, biographical sociology and arts practice (ethno-mimesis), the aim is to open up horizons and opportunities for scholarship and produce knowledge and understanding that has impact, that makes a difference, not only in better understanding the problems and challenges associated with the three borders (Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina, Poland/Ukraine, NI/RoI) at the edges of the European Union, and the very meaning, experience and practices of borders, but also in contributing to European policy and education. Through a radical re-envisioning of the European project and our collective European futures, we will share the findings with engaged audiences and publics, including European commissioners, policy makers, as well as students, and scholars of Europe and all those interested in borders, bordering and ‘borderities.’ The project will be launched at a symposium at University College Cork; host a mid-term learning laboratory and ‘art hack’ (Bradbury and O’Hara 2020) at the University of Lodz, (which will generate more data, knowledge and potential outcomes); and will close with an end of award conference at the University of Zagreb, where we will share the state of the art findings with communities of learning and practice. We envisage a close relationship with UNIC partners (an alliance of ten universities educating through teaching, research and community engagement, towards inclusive societies) in the consultation and dissemination of the outputs as UCC, Lodz and Zagreb are all members.

Research Team

The research team include the PI Professor Maggie O’Neill, Dept. Sociology & Criminology, ISS21/CSF and collaborating academics Dr Krešimir Žažar, Dept. Sociology, University of Zagreb; Professor Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas and Professor Katarzyna Waniek Dept. of Sociology of Culture, Institute of Sociology, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, University of Łódź, Professor Tomasz Ferenc, Department of Sociology of Art, University of Łódź, and artists Dr Michael Mcloughlin, University of Limerick, Dr John Perivolaris, and Professor Marek Domański, Academy of Fine Arts, Władysław Strzemiński in Łódź.

Two postdoctoral researchers will join the team to conduct research on a) the Polish/Ukrainian Border and b) the Bosnia-Herzegovina Border. 

Conach Gibson-Feinblum is undertaking a PhD project in this research area. 




Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30