International Conference:

Folk Culture and Boundaries in the Balkans

Volos, 7-8 June 2008

The concept of the conference Organizers and sponsors The conference programme

The conference aims at the scientific investigation of the contribution of folk culture in the construction of real or symbolic boundaries among the ethnic groups coexisting in the Balkans. The concept of the "boundary" has been of great interest to researchers, since "it is the ethnic boundary that determines the group rather than the cultural material that this boundary encloses" (Barth). The boundary is what shows the beginning and the end of the community, which is determined by the needs for social interaction and which reflects its identity. Cohen stresses the importance that the people themselves give to boundaries, as they exist because some communities act in such a way towards other communities from which they wish to be distinguished. Some boundaries may be constitutional or juridical; others may be clearly geographical, racial, linguistic or religious. It is certain that the limits of a community are not determined so much by locality but by the sense of belonging. At the level of a village, the settlement demarcates space and distinguishes it from other settlements. However, this demarcation is also symbolic. The community thus becomes a "repository of symbols", a mechanism by which forms of behaviour are aggregated. During the last century the Balkans have been regarded as a geopolitical entity, a fact that has also been accepted by the Balkan peoples. The new situation, which has been formed after the breakdown of communist-socialist regimes and the incorporation of many states in the European Union poses new questions concerning the formulation of geographical boundaries, the "uniform" character of the Balkan identity and its relationship with folk culture.

The conference will mainly focus on the concepts of boundaries and folk culture and it will discuss issues such as:

  • Culture and the concept of the boundary
  • Ethnic state and frontiers
  • Boundaries in modern times

Download the conference poster [.pdf, 1285kB].