The spatial division of Europe between East and West got its complex imaginary features during the Cold War though it’s not even by far its invention. Larry Wolff (1994) placed the formation of the East-West division of Europe within the logic of the Western enlightenment that through self-promotion, intellectual artifice and ideological self-interest invented Eastern Europe as part of an agenda in which ‘intellectual discovery and mastery could not be entirely separated from the possibility of real conquest’ (Wolff 1994: 8). The formation of organized knowledge of the Eastern Europe starting with the 18th century was dependent upon the intellectual program of the Enlightenment whose cartography and mental mappings that framed the region carried the civilizing superiority and missionaries’ pride aiming ultimately to assimilate and imprint its domination. After the Second World War, ‘Eastern Europe could only be surrendered because it had long ago been imagined, discovered, claimed, and set apart’ (Wolff 1994: 143). And after the end of the Cold War the traces of mental mappings are still in place shaping the narratives of a quasi-inclusive logic of the EU.
The spatial dimension of the persisting nexuses and of an East-West slope refers to security concerns and perceived threats resulted from the enlargement. It addresses as well the challenges to the emergence of a European ‘monotopia’ and the mental hierarchizations of the European citizens enjoying the forth freedom inside the EU, based on a persisting cartography of belonging. Geographical imaginary frames the EU enlargement process by producing identitarian discourses about a perceived European threatened Self and a threatening Other. The EU enlargement is geopolitical in the sense that it discursively ‘invokes and inscribes borders of Europe and Europeaness, of the West and Western values’ (Kuus 2007: 4). Though not essentially geographic, Europe develops cultural terms for delineative discourses that function as well as a value-driven geography that assigns places with gradations on the scale of Europeaness. The process of enlargement multiplied EUropean hegemonic discourses from the centers of power to the power margins of the new members that are caught between being in the ‘waiting room’ of Europe and pushing the Easterness to their next borders.
Reshaped through enlargement the Cold War division dissolved into a tripartite one between ‘core’ Europe, not yet full Europe and Eastern peripheries out of the membership promise. The second category is within the present argument the EU’s internal other. It’s reified in mental mapping as a concentric extension of the European core while Europeaness declines as one moves east. Though not an outsider but a carrier of internal negative connotations on scaling the Europeaness towards east, the new EU member is preserved under the premise of otherness, since its transformations are seen solely as the result of Western tutelage. This leads to the current anti-monotopic views on Europe that scale the Europeaness in multiple hierarchizations. Some argues that the slope of Europeaness became a constitutive part of the process of Eastern enlargement as foreign policy and impacted the perpetuation of a discursive practice that persists in the ongoing process of integration. EU unfolds a type of identity-based geopolitics detached from any military meaning of threats yet based on civilizational mappings.
A widespread spatial polycentrism and concentricity is visible on the background of the cosmopolitan projection of a European monotopia and of a frictionless mobility space. In spatial terms, despite the overall widespread European disparities among regions, Central and Eastern Europe is most often ‘spaced’ as a land of underdevelopment and laggardness within an imagined geography. A brief look on the Western European’s travel impressions of the region available on internet, one can easily recapture the atmosphere of travel logs from the times of Enlightenment when ‘amazing adventures could occur in Eastern Europe, especially because it was so close to Orient, and not much further from outer space’ (Wolff 1994: 104).
This panel aims to address from the point of human geography or of cultural geopolitics the space perceptions on Eastern Europe. Some suggested topics for the panel are:
- ‘Spacing’ Europe – East and West
- Axiological Geography: EU as a Neo-Medieval Empire
- European Enlargement and the New Peripheries of Europe
- Geopolitics of the Enlargement Towards Eastern Europe
- Human Geographies: Hierarchies of Europeanism
- Travel and Adventure in the Lands of Eastern Europe
- Geographical Ignorance: Outer Space and the Borders of Europe
- The Variable Geography of Europe
- Pushing Borders to the East: Naming the Europeans
- Bloodlands: History and Changing Borders in CEE
- Geopolitical Narratives of the Protectors of the Gates of Europe
- Geography and Ethnicity in CEE
- Geography and Religion in CEE
- Securitizing Narratives at the Borders
- Changing Geographies in CEE: From Empires to Nation States
- Geographic Variation in the Formation of Nation States in CEE
- Secession, Assimilation and Territorial Claims in CEE
- Geographies of Resources in CEE
- Displaying Allegiance: Political and Military Spheres of Influence and threats in CEE
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