On the Edge – the Why
On the first of January 1993 all customs formalities at internal borders of the EU member states were abolished. The representation of borders on maps of the EU – and more specific, those of border regions within the EU – seem to have lost attention and precision, too. Only simple lines cover the complexity, diversity and constant shifting character of the inner borders of the EU.
In reality, crossing a border at a specific place and time, one is still confronted with barriers. That confrontation, but also the spirit of the EU member states is perhaps the most tangible in those border regions. Local public transport does not correspond across the national border, there are different approaches on (care of) public space and social housing and social security systems barely correspond nor collaborate to help the frontier worker. These are only a few examples out of the daily life in border regions. Related to the situation today the border is more present than before: for example, on the eighteenth of March 2020 the border between Belgium and the Netherlands was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the border between Germany and The Netherlands remained open.1The two team members, part of Dear Hunter live and work in the Euregion Meuse Rhine and were confined during the first wave of Covid-19 contamination in Heerlen and could experience themselves the diverse impact of Covid-19 measurements. As such, the physical borders suddenly were back in people’s lives in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. So, the simple line on the map representing the border lacks the complexity, diversity and constant shifting character of the inner borders. Representations of border regions on maps should contain the different realities of the border and its specific local impact. As stated by Beatrix Haselberger, whose work at several universities across Europe focusses on the nature of borders and their impact on space and people: “All the maps and atlases with which we are familiar confront us with a particular geopolitical picture of the world. It is a world’s surface divided into distinct state territories, each clearly demarcated by a line – the state border – and illustrated in a separate colour. This jigsaw of states is usually taken for granted, as if borders are built for “eternity” and moreover as if the underlying concept is clear and well-defined. (…) However, borders are not just “visible lines” in space or on a map; on the contrary they are complex social constructions, with many different meanings and functions imposed on them. Planners are advised to acknowledge these nuanced and underestimated impacts on space and people as they are decisive for the success or failure of planning endeavours.” 2Beatrix Haselsberger, Decoding borders. Appreciating border impacts on space and people, Planning Theory & Practice, 505-526
The initiative ITEM (Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility of Maastricht University), based in the border region Euregio Meuse-Rhine, endorses this. On their website they describe that “(…) some of these borders are obvious and hard. They are anchored in the landscape and/or, for example, in the law. Other boundaries seem softer, they appear to be historically grown implicit rules. They may be less identifiable, but sometimes at least as tough as the obstacles we can point out.” 3Link to the website of ITEM, accessed September 12, 2018, https://itemcrossborderportal.maastrichtuniversity.nlIn this context, the project ‘Border Encyclopedia’ is an attempt to find other ways of representing the local manifestation and productivity of borders. In order to create a multiplicity which adds up to a richer palette and, as such, to do more justice to the richness and complexity of border regions. But why? Why stressing on the importance of a richer representation of the border? An example used by James C. Scott helps to explain this. Scott describes a map of Bruges from 1500. It is still a small and concentric city. For many of the streets, there was not a plan or design preceeding (and directing) its construction. However, at a certain moment, plans and maps become important and the city is no longer conceived in the field, but from the office. The plan and the map represent a design to which the surroundings have to conform.4James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions Have Failed, 124-127 Extension neighborhoods designed in the office are made rectangular and geometric, (partly) detached from the local place to which the map refers. That is why it is important to enrich the map with insights and findings out of the field, and to generate an interaction of what is imposed on maps and what is extracted from the field.
 The two team members, part of Dear Hunter live and work in the Euregion Meuse Rhine and were confined during the first wave of Covid-19 contamination in Heerlen and could experience themselves the diverse impact of Covid-19 measurements.
 Beatrix Haselsberger, Decoding borders. Appreciating border impacts on space and people, Planning Theory & Practice, 505-526
 Link to the website of ITEM, accessed September 12, 2018, https://itemcrossborderportal.maastrichtuniversity.nl
 James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions Have Failed, 124-127