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University of Wroclaw

Institute of Sociology

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Department of the Sociology of Borderland

Accademic Staff

PhD students

History of the department

The establishment of the Department was triggered off by the political changes of the 1990s in Central and Eastern Europe. Consequently, state borders in the region have become open and more permeable, which resulted in a rapid growth of the number of journeys. Their participants usually headed for borderlands where the previously unknown processes and phenomena came into being. They originated from a lively economic exchange yet led to deeper transformations—of social and cultural structure. The Department of the Sociology of Borderland was set up in 1997 as a proposal by PhD hab. Zbigniew Kurcz who had already been carrying out his own research in the Polish-German borderland since 1990 (which was documented with a pioneer article of his, published in the ‘Przegląd Zachodni’ quarterly as early as in 1991). The moment the Department was established it assembled: Elżbieta Baczyńska, PhD; Jan Kurek, PhD; Irena Szlachcic, PhD. Elżbieta Baczyńska took up the question of the pathology in borderlands, Jan Kurek dealt with religious cult in borderlands, while Irena Szlachcic investigated the identity of the inhabitants of the Czech-German-Polish borderland in an intergenerational dimension. Next workers were employed as they became PhDs and were recruited from among prof. Kurcz’s seminarists: Julita Makaro, PhD (since 2003), Marcin Dębicki, PhD (since 2008), Kamilla Dolińska (since 2008), Natalia Niedźwiecka-Iwańczak (since 2008). It was in 2016 that the Department was joined by Elżbieta Opiłowska, PhD, who used to cooperate with prof. Kurcz, at times also with the Department’s other members, as an assistant professor at the Willy Brandt Center (WBZ) for German and European Studies. In 2014 she successfully applied to establish the Center for Regional and Borderlands Studies, and at present it is also the Centre that is staffed by the workers of the Department. The members of the Department were rewarded for their research and didactic activity, documented with a number of publications: prof. Z. Kurcz—with the Reward of the Ministry of Education and with the Reward of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education; dr hab. Julita Makaro—with the Stanisław Ossowski Prize awarded by the Polish Sociological Association; dr N. Niedźwiecka-Iwańczak—with the Piotr Dobrowolski Prize awarded by the Polish Association of the Political Sciences.

Main research topics

The research directions followed by the Department of the Sociology of Borderland include several areas of interest yet with state/nation borderlands and ethnic issues as points of departure.

Firstly, it is the processes of globalization and integration as well as their consequences—real socio-economic transformations in particular borderlands—that account for the research topics to be dealt with. This approach has materialized with the projects on the impact of the neighbours’ vise-free mobilities or of the abolishment of border controls on the reality of borderlands and borderlanders.

Secondly, research directions are marked by an attempt at synthesis, comparison, search for rules and regularities of the life in borderlands. It can be illustrated with the studies oriented at the comparison of the towns in Poland’s western borderland, as well as its comparison with Poland’s other borderlands.

Thirdly, it is also the reflection over the borderland itself, its evolution into transborderland, the relations within the neighbourhood of cultures and nations. The examples of this research direction include the studies on the ways the borderland can be conceived, its administration and social dimension as well as getting familiar with the relations between national neighbours.

Fourthly, research endeavours have headed to discover and shape a new subdiscipline—the sociology of borderland. Here, the Department’s members are oriented at this subdiscipline’s fields of interest and its place among other detailed sociologies. Looking precisely at the research directions taken up in the Department one needs to underline that they refer mainly to the German and Czech borderlands yet it is also the Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Slovak borderlands that have focused the workers’ attention, which resulted in a range of publications.

Other spheres of interest include: national and ethnic minorities, Polish national neighbourhoods, multiculturalism and transnationality. For more detailed information on publications concerning these issues—see the website of the Institute of Sociology.

Academic and scientific events

Academic collaboration

The Department of the Sociology of Borderland has undertaken cooperation with numerous domestic and international centres for which the research into borderlands has been an important element of their scientific identity. This cooperation did not take an institutionalised character based on contracts entered officially but has been realised in practice, i.e. by means of participation in seminars and workshops oriented towards researching into indicated subjects, participation in conferences organised by the Department’s partner, co-participation in theme groups within Polish sociological congresses, research within common projects, releasing publications on specific fields of interest by the co-operators. The direction, nature and scope of cooperation have been marked by research projects realised by the partners, and the workers’ own research. The partners are: Institute of Sociology University of Białystok, University of Göttingen, the Czech Academy of Sciences (home: Ústí nad Labem), University of Zielona Góra, University of Leipzig, Institute of Cultural Infrastructure of Saxony (home: Görlitz), Institute for Western Affairs in Poznań, University of Szczecin, Polish Sociological Association–Wrocław Branch, European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Görlitz, University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg, The Section of Sociology of Ethnicity of the Polish Sociological Association