20th Anniversary of the Nijmegen Centre of Border Research

On the 28th of January 2019, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Nijmegen Centre of Border Research (NCBR). When I arrived in Nijmegen in Nov. 1998, the NCBR was just founded. With the Dutch-German border so close by, it seemed to be natural niche for the research of our Department. However this research also touches the core of geographical research in general, since geographers are generally interested in the diversity and differences in our world, but there where we talk about differences we implicitly are also talking about borders and about making differences or bordering. So geography and the the topic of borders go hand in hand. And the theorising about borders and bordering is also applicable to many other fields of research in geography. The Nijmegen Centre of Border Research has always taken this broad interpretation of borders and bordering seriously, and in contrast to other Border Research institutes, the NCBR is known to not just studying the national border so close by, but to study any form of borders and bordering, at all different scales, and worldwide. We are looking at cultural borders, ethnic borders, religious borders, economic borders, language borders, natural borders, political and administrative borders, etc. etc. Given this almost natural niche for this kind of research, when I arrived in Nijmegen and took over the geography chair, it was an easy strategic decision to develop this as a spear head of our research, and now, after 20 years, all scholars involved can look back on the last twenty years with proud.

On the history of NCBR

To deepen the theme of borders and bordering theoretically and empirically in a broader and institutional context, the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research was established in 1998. By now, NCBR has established itself as an internationally recognised expertise centre on borders, migration, cross-border cooperation and post-colonalism.

Right from the start our aim has always been – very much in line with the focus of our research: the crossing of borders – to be an expertise group, an informal and voluntary assemblage of individual researchers rather than an hierarchical and formal institution. The goal was and is not the existence of NCBR itself but the border crossing work that we do.

Over time, the members of NCBR have significantly contributed to the co-creation of an international field that did not exist before, the field of border studies. How and why we as human beings border and de-border has proven to be a great geographical lens through which we can study and understand societal developments and tensions around issues like migration, place-making, colonialism, identity, conflicts, cross-border cooperation and globalisation. Many publications have been written, editorships and funds have been acquired using NCBR as an affiliation. And many interesting and congenial international researchers have been attracted to join NCBR as a guest researcher, have become associated members of NCBR and/or member of the NCBR discussion list making NCBR, thereby turning NCBR gradually into a ‘glocal’ network, rather than a local coalition alone. By now, NCBR is affiliated to various international border research associations and journals (e.g. Association of Borderlands Scholars, Journal of Borderlands Studies (JBS), African Border Research Network (ABORNE), Border Regions in Transition).

Important themes in the present research include:

  • Cosmopolitanism, Globalisation and Europeanisation
  • Migration, Mobilities and Refugees
  • Citizenship and hos(ti)pitality
  • Nationalism and Transnationalism
  • Practices of Bordering, Ordering and Othering
  • Perceptions and Representations of Borders
  • Labour Market (im)mobility across Borders
  • Borderscapes, Euregional and Cross-border Networks
  • Anti-and Post-Colonialism