Theme: Borders, boundaries and encounters

The theme of the year 2024 is Borders, boundaries and encounters.

Borders separate places, territories and states from each other. Borders are drawn on maps and marked on the terrain. Borders are controlled with walls, fences and check points, and with increasingly sophisticated technology. Geographical borders, be they natural or man-made, separate not only people and communities from each other, but also objects and animals. Borders create inequality as the right to cross them is not universal. Furthermore, symbolic boundaries are maintained with social and cultural conventions.

Concrete and symbolic boundaries are also created and maintained within societies and cultures. These boundaries and classifications are often to do with power struggles over who gets heard and for whose benefit. In addition, boundaries are often imagined where they do not exist. Nonetheless, boundaries can also be fertile sites for new potential despite perceived dangers.

The multiple crises of the current decade have forced us to consider borders and boundaries anew. Old privileges are challenged, including those that have been relatively protected so far. We must reconsider the role of humans in our fragile ecosystem as we can no longer ignore the needs of our other-than-human companions if we are to maintain diversity on our planet. Unfortunately, borders and boundaries tend to have the biggest impact on those who are in the most disadvantaged positions regarding decision-making and resources. Therefore, we need sociology now more than ever to make these issues visible and to generate discussion.

Even science itself creates boundaries within and between disciplines. Thankfully, sociology offers a space for inter-disciplinary curiosity towards new ways of being and knowing. The Westermarck Society Annual Conference invites sociologists to consider a wide range of contemporary sociological questions from the perspectives of borders, boundaries and encounters in Kuopio in March 2024.

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