Recent years have provided us with new images of a world in which persons can interact almost seamlessly regardless of distance. Various private and public institutions draw on changing means of communication and transport that seem to transcend particular spaces and times. Concepts such as liquid democracy suggest the revolutionary potential of digital media for our thinking about politics. At the same time, we are also witnessing an unbroken and even growing focus on securing territorial borders. Critiques of disembodied perspectives on norms and persons join with a new emphasis on space’s significance for human interactions, often described as the “spatial turn”. Are we moving past a territorially defined order – or do we see a return of border walls? Are territorial borders being complemented or replaced by other forms of boundaries, tighter firewalls and/or private fences?

This international conference will provide a forum for addressing the complex and shifting interrelations between territory and institutions, bringing these various perspectives into productive exchange. The general narrative is that a growing connection between territory and institutions characterizes modernity until the mid-20th century, when globalization began to disentangle the two. Is such a description adequate? To which extent does it represent a particular European perspective, and can it be countered or complemented by other histories? What normative claims result from the respective descriptions? What reactions do we see in different areas of society to tackle these developments, and what reactions might evolve in the future?

The conference will include keynotes by Prof. Margaret Moore (Queen’s University) and Prof. T. Alexander Aleinikoff (The New School).