Twelfth Biennial MESEA Conference
Communities of Engagement: Breaking Down Borders and Other Barriers in the Era of Climate Crisis

May 26-29, 2022
University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)
Cyprus Campus, Pyla, Larnaka, Cyprus

The Twelfth MESEA conference, which was scheduled to take place in Larnaka/Pyla, Cyprus, in May 2020, hosted by UCLAN Cyprus, had to be postponed until 2022. An announcement with an update will be posted in the fall. The 2022 MESEA conference in Larnaka, Cyprus, will be on the same, if slightly updated theme of Communities of Engagement, and will include papers already accepted for the canceled 2020 conference as well as new submissions.


Note for members whose papers were accepted in 2020

  • All papers and panels accepted for presentation at the May 2020 conference are retained. The MESEA conference chair will be in touch with you in early autumn of 2021 to inquire about your (or your panel’s) situation. Please do not resubmit your proposal.
  • If there are changes in the constitution of your panel as some your fellow panelists may be unable to attend, please contact the program chair directly (jopi.nyman@uef.fi). In any case, we’ll find a presentation slot for all accepted papers.

Information about travel and accommodation will be updated by January 2022.
Keep in mind that in 2022 prices and other information may differ from those from 2020 listed below.

Keynote Speakers

Johan Schimanski, Professor of Comparative Literature and Head of Research, Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages (ILOS), University of Oslo, and Professor of Cultural Encounters, University of Eastern Finland

Karen McCarthy Woolf, poet, the Recipient of the Kate Betts Memorial Prize and an Arts and Humanities Research Council scholarship from Royal Holloway, University of London, and Fulbright Scholar/Writer in Residence 2019-20 UCLA Promise Institute for Human Rights

Inaugural Atlantic Studies lecture

William Boelhower, the Robert Thomas and Rita Wetta Adams Professor of Atlantic and Ethnic Studies Emeritus, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Louisiana State University


Renewed Call for Papers for the 2022 MESEA Conference

On November 9, 1989, East Berlin’s Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR were free to cross the country’s borders, leading to speculations of a “world without borders.” Yet, as Elisabeth Vallet argues, a renewed emphasis on wall building since this epoch-marking event has become a “global phenomenon.”[1] Donald Trump’s discursive construction of a so-called border crisis is only the most conspicuous and notorious example of rallying the electorate behind the fortification of border walls for political gain. However, recent electoral victories of nationalist populists across Europe and elsewhere also have given momentum to the call for walls  to “protect” polities or to keep out refugees and migrants. We contend that these walls, borders and barriers are not only physical but also ontological and, as BREXIT shows us, ideological borders can be just as debilitating to liberal values and ideas. Ironically, however, the travel restrictions and closing of national borders imposed during the Covid pandemic for public health reasons complicate liberals’ critique of the populist call for borders, since it is precisely those restrictions and barriers that are challenged by populists and their electorates in the name of individual “freedom”. The 2022 MESEA conference will enable the discussion of the power of nationalist ideas that promote borders and the ways through which activists and artists work to challenge, combat or break them down, often using utopian ideas of post-nationalism or transnationalism, as well as the ways in which the Covid pandemic may complicate the liberal critique of borders and barriers. As Johan Schimanski and Stephen F. Wolfe note, “Bordering is ordering, othering and negotiating difference”; however, apart from producing “B/ORDERING processes of EXCLUSION and inclusion,” borders can “surface as aesthetic FIGURATIONS – narratives or tropes – which can also interrogate their including/excluding function.”[2]

In addition to geopolitical and ideological contexts, the significance of borders is emphasized in the era of the climate crisis. In global terms, climate change also literally alters the physical geography of borders, undermining vulnerable communities worldwide as well as creating schisms between political and economic groups, as climate change deniers disregard, condone, or even actively promote and facilitate the continued exploitation of the earth’s natural resources. The malleability of such borders, the threat to them from denier ideology and the vulnerability of those living in these liminal spaces will also be key themes in the conference. The contestation of ideological as well as natural borders and other barriers will also be a central focus of this meeting.

For the twelfth MESEA conference we welcome papers that look at the ways in which literature, film, and other cultural productions as well as social and political activism critically engage with climate change and (shifting) physical borders, and/or virtual, social, political, and cultural ones. The conference welcomes intersectional approaches to its topic, including but not limited to perspectives that include race, gender, ethnicity, class, and sexuality, which have gained new relevance in the international context of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo activism. Environmental Humanities perspectives are especially welcome to shed light on the gathering catastrophe that these border strains presage. Held in Cyprus, within the liminal UN Buffer Zone that divides the island, this conference will provide a forum for discussions on the global climate crisis, the effect of borders on competing ideas of nation and religious belief, as well as the ways in which artists and activists work around these difficult issues.  We welcome papers that revel in the fact that borders can be significant nodal points for the exchange of new ideas as well as papers discussing the representation of borders, barriers and walls, in literature, film, and other cultural and artistic expressions or in legal, economic, and social situations, including the (post-)pandemic. This conference operates as a platform for critical and cultural interventions in the variety of debates around contesting walls, borders and barriers from postgraduate students, academics, artists and activists across all disciplines in the arts and humanities, social sciences and science.

Potential paper and panel submissions can address, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Climate change and movements of people and borders
  • Raising borders and denying climate and social change
  • Trump’s Wall and refugees/migrants and/or Biden’s Response
  • Walls and border conflicts
  • Graffiti on walls
  • Refugee and migration comics
  • Art and Activism in the borderlands
  • Native and Artistic responses to and interventions in (potential) cross-border ecological disasters like the Keystone Pipeline
  • Horror and Science Fiction as response to Liminal zones/borderlands
  • Class, Race, and Gender and their intersections in the borderlands
  • The Paradox of Peace Walls/Lines erected to preserve peace by dividing communities 
  • Communities of engagement and peace-building at borderlands
  • Generational protests: youth activism
  • Walls of the past, artworks of the present
  • Cross-national activist networks
  • Performing protest
  • Black Lives Matter: The Intersection of Race and Climate Activism
  • #MeToo and the Ideological Complexities of Border Transgression

New proposals should be submitted to our website at  https://mesea.org/ between June 15 and November 15, 2021. Submitters will receive notification of acceptance by January 6, 2022.

NOTE: Members whose paper proposals were accepted for the 2020 MESEA conference will be able to present these papers at the 2022 conference. Please do not resubmit your proposal. If there are changes in the constitution of your panel as some your fellow panelists may be unable to attend, please contact the program chair directly (jopi.nyman@uef.fi). In any case, we’ll find a presentation slot for all accepted papers.

Preference will be given to complete panel proposals with an inter/transdisciplinary and/or transnational focus. Panels may not include more than 2 participants from the same institution. Presenters must be members of MESEA or MELUS in 2022 and 2023.

As in previous years, MESEA will award at least one Young Scholars Excellence Award.

Program Director

Jopi Nyman, PhD DSocSc
Professor of English
School of Humanities
University of Eastern Finland
P. O. Box 111
FI- 80101 Joensuu
FINLAND
Tel. +358-2944-52143
Email: jopi.nyman@uef.fi


[1] Elisabeth Vallet, ed. Borders, Fences and Walls: State of Insecurity? Routledge, 2014, 1-2.

[2] Johan Schimanski and Stephen F. Wolfe, eds. ‘Intersections: A Conclusion in the Form of a Glossary.’ In Border Aesthetics: Concepts and Intersections. Berghahn, 2017, 149.

Larnaka 2022