The 2022 GCE-HSG annual conference “Migration, Mobility and Displacement in the Black Sea Region” was organized in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 12 to 15 September. The event was co-organized by NGO “INDIGO.” The conference proposed to shift the focus from the EU to the Black Sea Region in academic debates on migration processes. In doing so, this multidisciplinary conference did broaden the lens so as to explore present and historical processes of forced population displacements, illegal and voluntary population movements in, out, through, and within the Black Sea region. Event participants regarded the Black Sea region as a space where various migration processes interact with transient borders and political in/stability. The interdisciplinarity of the conference allows contributors to explore novel theoretical concepts and methodologies related to migration, mobility, and displacement in the Black Sea Region. The scholars and practitioners at the conference represented institutions from the following countries: Switzerland, Austria, Georgia, Sweden, Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, and Norway.
The conference was opened by the presentation of the SNF research project “Remembering the Past in the conflicts ofthe Present: Civil Society and Contested History of thePost-Soviet Space” (University of Bern) and a discussion on the military events and peacebuilding in Georgia and Ukraine. Also, as part of the conference opening, the GCE-HSG team and scholars from the Centre’s network presented the Euxenis Journal and ongoing projects funded and organized by the center. Among the presented projects were the following: “Shadows of Empires. A digital historical mapping platform,” “Territoriality of the Georgian Orthodox Church,” “Telegram Archive of War,” “Citizenship, Displacement, and Decision-Making.” The subsequent conference panels addressed the following issues: migration, mobility and border crossing around the Black sea in the Ottoman era; migration and displacement during and after the Second world war; national and global scales of contemporary migration and mobility processes; decision-making, knowledge sharing, and migration narratives; policymaking on IDPs and refugees. Also, as part of the conference, the public discussion “State Responses to Immigration: Between l/liberalism and “Willkommenskultur” was organized. This public event presented perspectives of scholars and practitioners on migration policy inside and outside the EU, with a closer look at the cases of Poland, Switzerland, and Georgia. The closing event of the conference was the panel on “Political Frames and the War in Ukraine,” which sparked a comprehensive discussion on the methods of political discourse analysis, as well as the challenges scholars face in the context of the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine. The closing remarks and final discussion of the conference highlighted the interdisciplinarity, novelty and significance of the academic event and proposed further collaborative projects that will continue the scholarly debate launched at the conference.
In October-December 2021, the GCE-HSG held an online interdisciplinary conference, “Black Sea Region in the Times of Crises: New Theoretical Approaches and Research Methodologies”. As an alternative to the traditional events in the Black sea countries, this format allowed to conduct conferences successfully despite nowadays existing anti-epidemic measures as well as allowed to reach a broad international audience.
The conference program was organized as weekly online events that included paper-based panels, presentations of research dissemination projects and film screenings and discussions. The conference aimed to explore the present and historical dynamics shaping the Black Sea region through the lens of transculturality. Within discussions on novel theoretical concepts and methodologies, we approached the transcultural space of the Black Sea region and the challenges that it faces - both in the past and today.
The GCE launched a conference call and provided mini-grants for participants to professionally-made conference videos. The collection of conference videos is available online at the GCE youtube channel.
The conference events covered the following topics: the Black sea as an entangled historical space; transnational political and economic networks, the Crimean peninsula as a contested space; memory and heritage in the Black sea region; displacement and belonging in Ukrainian society. Moreover, we organized the screening and discussion with authors and experts of two documentary films supported by GCE in 2021. The film “Living on the borderland: a Swiss Village at the Black Sea in a Changing Political Landscape”, created at the University of Lausanne, presented the history of Swiss colony Chabo in the Odesa region. The film “Speaking Greek as Turkish Nationalists” explores the unknown Romeyka speaking community in contemporary Turkey.
The conference gathered an interdisciplinary team of scholars from Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA. The online events were attended by a diverse international audience of scholars, students, and practitioners. The online events were highly promoted and attracted up to 50 people each.
The annual international conference “Transculturality in the Black Sea Region: New Theoretical Approaches and Research Methodologies” was initially planned to be held in Chișinău, Moldova from 10-12 September 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the location of the conference was changed to the University of St.Gallen and it has been held in hybrid on/offline format. A share of the participants and discussant (based in Switzerland, Germany and Austria) were able to travel to St.Gallen and take part in person, while the others joined online via zoom. This multidisciplinary conference aimed to explore the present and historical dynamics shaping the Black Sea Region through the lens of transculturality. The conference started with two documentary films screening at the Palace Cinema in St.Gallen, followed by a public discussion. Karina Gaibulina (University of St.Gallen) presented her movie Adolf Januszkiewicz. Among dear Kazakhs, in which she reconstructs the life story of a Polish political prisoner, who was exiled to Siberia in the 19th-century. The movie Nem kellett már Lenin (Lenin was not needed anymore) was presented by film director and scholar Ágnes Erőss (Geographical Institute RCAES, Budapest). It was shot in Kobyletska Poljana/Gyertyánliget (Transcarpathia, Ukraine). The movie tells the story of local Hungarian community during Socialism and today, touching upon the language issues from personal and Hungarian perspectives. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Sandra King-Savić (University of St.Gallen).
Besides discussions in different panels, the conference also featured several presentations of recent and upcoming publications. Anna Chebotarova (University of St.Gallen) has presented the books, book chapters and articles that were published in 2020 by project members and focused on Ukraine. Olena Palko (Birkbeck College, University of London) presented the upcoming collective volume Making Ukraine: Negotiating, contesting and drawing the Borders in the 20th century, which she co-edits with Constantin Ardeleanu (University of Galati). The closing event of the conference was the discussion and book presentation ‘Analyzing Informality in the Black Sea Region and the Balkans’ (moderated by Matias Dewey (University of St.Gallen). Elena Denisova-Schmidt (University of St.Gallen) presented the collective volume “Corruption in Higher Education: Global Challenges and Responses” (Brill, 2020), while Sandra King-Savić (University of St.Gallen) presented her upcoming book “Forging Transnational Belonging through Informal Trade – Thriving Markets in Times of Crisis” (Routledge, 2021).
Despite the unusual circumstances and the experimental hybrid format, the conference turned into a virtual and physical space for fruitful discussions and academic exchange. The video-recordings of all conference panels and book presentations are publicly available on the YouTube channel of the GCE.
The annual project conference “Borderlands and Contact Zones in Ukraine and the Black Sea Region” took place on 11-14 September 2019 in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. This year it was co-organized with Vasyl Stus Donetsk University in Vinnytsia. The university, displaced because of military conflict in Donbas, served as a very thought-provoking location for the conference. After the city walk around Vinnytsia with historian Oleksandra Gaidai, the conference was launched with the lecture by prof. Yuriy Temirov (Donetsk University) on the challenges of international security in the Black Sea Region. The lecture was followed by the presentations of current project activities (summer schools and Euxeinos issues) and two public book talks on the recent publications - Ukrainian language: normalization, renormalization (1920–2015) (Kharkiv, 2019) and Regionalism without regions: reconceptualizing Ukraine’s heterogeneity (2019, CEU Press, Budapest). The book talks were attended by a large student and professor audience from Donetsk University.
On the following two days the panelists addressed the issues of: southern steppe frontiers in the Black Sea region, myths, memories, religion and identity narratives in borderland regions as well as discourses of conflict and peace in contemporary Ukraine. Public discussion “Corruption in Ukraine: myth and reality” was held on the second day of the conference at “Misto Zmistiv” hub in central Vinnytsia.
The Ukraine Conference, which has been organised annually since 2011 at various locations in Ukraine, was held in September in Uzhhorod (Transcarpathia). The theme of the conference was „Transcultural Contact Zones in Ukraine: Borders, Conflicts, and Multiple Identities“. The format of the public Call for Papers attracted a large number of sociologists, historians, anthropologists, economists, geographers and political scientists from Ukraine, the USA, Switzerland and the EU.
The conference began with an excursion to Uzhhorod on the history and heritage of the 20th century. The city tour was led by Lina Degtyarova, research assistant of the foundation „Uzhgorod Modernism“. The conference began in the afternoon. The participants of the first two panels dealt with the Transcarpathian region from the point of view of economic, political, literary and historic influences. Further panels dealt with the Romanian-Ukrainian contact zones, the encounter of Poles and Jews in the Ukrainian border regions, Crimea, collective memories, legacies and identities as well as gender- specific, economic, religious and political dimensions of the current conflict in Ukraine.
The conference also offered a program for the public audience in Uzhhorod. Bohdan Shumylovych, researcher at the Centre for Urban History in Lviv, gave a lecture entitled „Uses of the Landscape: The Media Transformation of the Carpathians in the 20th Century“. Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Iryna Sklokina. Oksana Myshlovska and Oleksandra Gaidai - all members of GCE‘s Ukraine-Network - continued to present their new publications on memory politics and the Soviet heritage. The panel discussion entitled „Post-Euromaidan Ukraine: Transformations and Challenges“, which was also open to the public, was the highlight of the conference. Yaroslav Hrytsak, Elena Denisova-Schmidt, Viktoria Sereda and Tatiana Zhurzhenko discussed the challenges of researching regionalism in Ukraine with the participation of the local press and a diverse audience of up to 100 people.
In September, the annual Ukraine project conference „Transnational Contact Zones: Redefining Ukrainian Regionalism“ took place in Odesa. The conference started with the presentation of the digital platforms uaregio.org and MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine that was developed in cooperation with Harvard University. Thematic panels of the conference dealt with religion, Ukrainian-Romanian border areas, post-imperial contact zones, current military conflicts, historical memory, and socio-economic contact zones. The conference brought together 32 project participants who presented the results of their ongoing research and informed conference attendees about project activities. Among other activities, the participants visited the Muslim Cultural Center, the Jewish Museum, and the Great Synagogue in Odessa.
On September 16 and 17, the fifth annual conference took place in Dnipro, Ukraine. The Dnipro conference heralded the beginning of the second project phase in which participants examine the phenomenon of contact zones. The concept of contact zones is intended to provide a dynamic understanding of the interaction of different cultures. The contact-zones paradigm seeks to avoid a container-like view of the complex situation in Ukraine. Along these lines, national boundaries should be questioned as arbitrary dividing lines. The contact-zones concept will illustrate how cultures influenced each other beyond political orders. The Dnipro conference thus served the purpose of connecting individuals with similar research interests and their corresponding projects.