The Baltic and the Mediterranean are focal areas of regional imagination that have been affected by the ‘new geography’ after the end of the Cold War. The project Spaces of Expectation analyses the meaning attached to the Baltic and the Mediterranean in selected case studies, investigates the mental maps correlated to historical representation, compares the imagination of the two regions, and studies their entanglement. The aim is an improved understanding of how historical trajectories have been attached to two maritime areas that are critical to European integration.
The project examines how sea-related historico-spatial ideas serve the creation, maintenance, and deconstruction of collective identities and cohesion in two macro-regional settings. It aims at assessing the historical potential or telos that is ascribed to the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean areas today and also at contributing to a genealogy of regional imagination in these areas. Asking for the use of history in regional narratives in a diachronic, comparative, and transregional perspective, the project seeks to generate new knowledge about the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean as imagined stages for the unfolding of history.
The project’s work programme is structured around three related methodological and theoretical complexes – area studies, mental mapping, and conceptual history. While area studies are characterised by a problematic epistemology, history, and field contingency this need not be a liability, but is something we will turn into a matter of research and try to advance into an opportunity for innovation. The project aims at self-reflective studies with cross-regional comparative, transregional, and global perspectives. It takes the ‘spatial turn’ serious as more than merely a fashion label. It does so by engaging in a transdisciplinary review of concepts and approaches. In particular, the project links its historiographical and political science studies to earlier psychological and geographical mental mapping approaches by asking which elements of these can be used and elaborated. Moreover, while acknowledging analytical categories of conceptual history such as ‘spaces of experience’ and ‘horizons of expectation’, we probe and understand literally a hybrid third concept, ‘space of expectation’, thereby acquiring a new receptor hat links conceptual history to area studies and mental mapping approaches.