Ulrich Best: Transgression as a Rule. German-Polish Cross-border Cooperation, Border Discourse and EU-enlargement. Berlin 2007 (Forum Politische Geographie 3). 279 S.
The publication, based on ULRICH BEST's dissertation, deals with the changing practice of German-Polish cross-border relations in the broader context of German-Polish relations during the 1990s until today. The author takes a constructivist research perspective and uses qualitative methods such as critical discourse analysis in order to answer his research questions, which are: 1) directed on the shifts in German-Polish relations and the constitution of the Other ("How is the mutual Other conceptualised, represented and narrated in German-Polish discourse? How does the relation with the Other negotiate national discourse and cross-border discourse?"), 2) addressing the practice of cross-border cooperation ("How do people in trans-border projects conceptualise their role in this changed field? How do they negotiate the tension of critical practice and power structures, and what new forms of critical practice emerge?”) and 3) reflecting the role of border studies themselves ("How can border studies analyse a situation where cross-border cooperation has become mainstream politics? How can there be a critical practice of border studies?") (p. 2-3).
In the irst part of the book, ULRICH BEST reflects on the development of border studies in the context of changing theoretical approaches and policy-shifts (and shifting focuses in the relevant research programmes which are funding border-studies) and lays open the limits of border-studies, among others the disregard of its own position as "part of the apparatus that puts rules into practice" (p. 27). In order to overcome limitations, he suggests the concepts of DELEUZE and GUATTARI and their dualistic terminology of transgression and regression, which are practices shaping both the Self and the Other, and link it with state practices. "The practices of individuals are thus located in a landscape of power, dealing with the lines of the assemblage, following, repeating, and modifying them" (p. 36).
In the following chapters, he analyses those landscapes of power, first reflecting the historical development of the German and the Polish Other and the political development of the 1990s, before turning to the presentation of his own fieldwork, consisting of a critical discourse analysis of German and Polish newspaper and magazine articles, which depicts the shifting representation of the Other, and of four qualitative case studies, which show the micro-politics of cooperation in its narrative practice. Those case studies, carried out in the ductus of ethnographic field-work, including qualitative interviews, informal conversation, field notes and background material, are the city partnership Szczecin/Berlin-Kreuzberg, the international Lower Oder Valley Park, the anti-racist border camps protesting against EU migration politics. However, this case was not included in the analysis, as the German camps left the border region after 2000) and the construction of images of Silesia in Görlitz and Wroclaw.
In the concluding chapter, he brings the different perspectives together and shows that transgression has become a rule in German-Polish discourse, in the practice of cross-border cooperation as well as in border research. However, there is also a continuity of traditional power relations, which is clearly displayed in a neo-colonial view of Poland and in the perception of an unequal relationship, both of which are found in the individual and public perception in Poland and in Germany. ULRICH BEST shows in the analyses of his case studies, that the actors have partly found a way to overcome those traditional power relations in their practical work, and suggests that critical border studies might learn "from the movement of the actors in the field” (p. 262).
The study, detailed in its discourse analysis and always reflective on the research process and the position of the researcher, draws a very enlightening picture of actual German-Polish relations and perceptions. The fact that it is published in English (which required the translation of numerous quotes from German or Polish newspaper articles or interviews) enables the transmission of results into the Polish scientific community, overcoming the German-Polish language barrier.
Autorin: Birgit Glorius