Fluid Landscape: Spatial Politics in the North Adriatic Area and Other European Borderlands during and after World War II

Matic Batič's picture

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April 18, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Borderlands, Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, Urban History / Studies

We invite graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and senior scholars to submit proposals for an international conference titled “Fluid Landscape: Spatial Politics in the North Adriatic Area and Other European Borderlands during and after World War II”. The conference will take place on the 18th of April 2022 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the premises of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation (Tivolska 42, 1000 Ljubljana).

Thematic focus

The Fluid Landscape conference aims to provide an original contribution to the history of European borderlands during and after World War II. Although borderlands have long been considered marginal to understanding the workings of nation-states, recent research has shown that this is not the case. Indeed, some border regions were not only extremely important as a source of tension due to the overlapping territorial ambitions of competing countries, but often played a central role on a symbolic level as well. Their importance in ideological narratives thus often exceeded their economic, demographic and strategic value. Geographically, the primary focus of the conference covers the area of the North Adriatic, a typical European border region characterised by its ethnic diversity and frequent changes in political affiliation. This territory could be characterised as one of the most obvious examples of the “central periphery”, since in the first half of the 20th century it represented one of the central European crisis hotspots. Between 1943 and 1954, the history of this territory was particularly tumultuous, as different countries and ideologies fought for military, political and symbolic control over it. Even after the end of the Second World War, the region remained one of the central European crisis hotspots.

In terms of content, the conference focuses on the symbolic dimension of this process, more specifically on the symbolically charged spatial politics that characterised this area at that time. Existing research has confirmed that ever since the beginning of the rise of national movements in the second half of the 19th century, public space in the region has been subjected to ideological appropriations. Various political groups strove to achieve and consolidate their political goals by (re)shaping the appearance of the local landscape in accordance with their own ideological postulates. In order to achieve these goals, they erected public monuments and representative public buildings, but architectural styles and even urban planning also gained ideological significance to a greater or lesser extent. As spatial politics occupies a complex point at the intersection of political power, ideology, collective memory and identity formation, it offers a unique research opportunity, especially as this research topic has remained rather under-researched. Spatial politics in the North Adriatic has already been a subject of historical interest, but existing research has almost completely ignored the period after the end of Italian rule in the region, especially in the crucial time period from 1943 to 1954, when the political future of the region was extremely uncertain. As this topic remains very poorly researched to this day, the conference will provide an important contribution to a more complex understanding of this period. In a broader view, its importance for a deeper understanding of the relations between political power and public space, between collective memories, state legitimacy, totalitarianism and public space in European border areas, and consequently also in Europe as a whole in this pivotal historical period, is also evident.

Although the primary focus of the conference is on the territory of the North Adriatic, experts on spatial politics in other European border regions at this time are also invited to participate, as we aim to place these processes in a wider European context. In this way, the results of the conference will be even more relevant for international humanities research, and in addition, opportunities for fruitful scientific dialogue between researchers of different geographical areas will be established.

Papers can address (but are not limited to) the following broadly conceptualised and interrelated research questions, associated with borderlands and spatial politics:

  • What was the (symbolic) role of European borderlands during and after World War II?
  • How did the border character manifest itself?
  • How and why did competing ideological groups and political regimes conceptualise, claim and (re)shape (public) space therein?
  • Where did these processes originate in and how did they unfold? Who were the instigators? How did “common people” react to ideological impositions “from above”?

From the thematic point of view, the following examples of spatial politics can be analysed:

  • (re)naming of local toponyms;
  • public signs and slogans;
  • construction and destruction of monuments;
  • undesirable tangible cultural heritage (e. g. castles, churches, certain architectural styles etc.);
  • urban development projects.


We will host nine to twelve papers in panels of three, taking place over a single day. At the end of each panel, there will be a discussion of the presented topics. Participants will thus have an opportunity to engage in a lively and lengthy discussion with some of the leading experts in the field, as well as doctoral candidates from around the world.


Submission Guidelines and Funding

We encourage submissions from individuals at all universities and research institutes. Interested participants should submit a 300-word proposal and one-page Curriculum Vitae (in either Word or PDF format) to matic.batic@scnr.si. Proposals must be received before the 28th of February 2023. Papers for each panel will be selected in accordance with the workshop's theme and based on their scientific potential. All participants will be notified of participation by the 10th of March 2022. All questions should be directed to the email above.

The workshop's host institution will cover the accommodation expenses (2 nights) for participants who do not receive sufficient funding from their institutions. However, travel expenses will not be covered. Meals will be provided throughout the workshop.

The workshop is part of a post-doc project “Fluid Landscape: Architecture, Identity and Border Space in the Northern Adriatic from 1943 to 1954”, funded by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS), under the grant Z6-3222.



Matic Batič, PhD, Study Centre for National Reconciliation

Contact Info: 

Matic Batič, PhD, Research Fellow at the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Study Centre for National Reconciliation is a Slovene public research institution, active since 2008, whose primary aim is the study of contemporary Slovene history, with a special emphasis on the history of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.  Our scholarly interests stem from the uniquely structured history of this area in the 20th century, as it was deeply interconnected with the rise and development of various forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which have left deep marks in the social fabric lasting until today. The study of history in the 20th century can thus provide unique insights relevant for the Slovene society, still deeply marked by this legacy, but also for the international humanities. Consequently, our work deals with both aforementioned aspects. Apart from research work, we also collect and publish documents, stories and memories of witnesses from that time, participate in the educational process and connect with Slovenes in neighbouring countries and around the world as well as with similar international institutions.

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