Essays

Connecting Thrace – Cross-border cooperation in the Bulgarian-Turkish border region
01-01-2019

Abstract:
In 1990, the EU launched its first cross-border cooperation (CBC) programs with the aim to improve socio-economic cohesion between regions. The idea was that CBC would not only contribute to development in the border regions – which are generally characterized by high unemployment and a relatively low gross domestic product (GDP), but also that, by working together over national borders, mutual understanding would increase and borders would be less felt by the involved populations. Econometric studies show that CBC can indeed improve the socio-economic situation in border regions, but only under certain circumstances. Three defining factors have been distinguished: the extent of cooperation tradition, whether the actors involved have the same objectives, and whether the cooperating regions have adequately been decentralized and possess the administrative capacity and civil society to implement the projects and funds. EU-financed CBC in the Bulgarian-Turkish border region started in 2003 and seeing that this region used to be a coherent whole with the name of Thrace during the Ottoman Empire era, it might be expected that successful cooperation should be rather easily achieved. After all, for almost four hundred years, different peoples were united within this one empire and were living and trading with each other and speaking each others languages. Putting this hypothesis to the test, this Master thesis sets out to analyze the state of cross-border cooperation in the Bulgarian-Turkish border region by looking at the aforementioned three factors. What I argue is that the promotion of nationalist narratives, the refusal to decentralize, the relatively weak civil societies and several diverging aims between the two countries all inhibit successful cooperation.
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Football for Peace? The role of the Football for Peace program in reconciling Jews and Arabs in Israel
21-01-2018

Abstract:
When thinking about reconciliation processes and the role that sports can play in this, the prime example that is usually given is that of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Cheered on by both black and white crowds, the South African team won the Cup final. The newly elected president, Nelson Mandela, wearing the national team’s Springbok jersey, handed the trophy to the (white) team captain, Francois Pienaar, in a symbolic event of reconciliation. After years of apartheid, it seemed that rugby had brought the nation together again. It is examples such as these that have given rise to several sport projects that have the specific aim to contribute to reconciliation processes in conflict-ridden areas. An interesting example in this regard is the Football for Peace (F4P) program in Israel, which was set up by the retired Baptist minister Geoffrey Whitfield (1940-2017) in partnership with the University of Brighton. F4P is a sport-based co-existence project for Jewish and Arab children that puts emphasis on a bottom-up, grassroots approach through the organization of annual football camps. Although F4P has grown significantly since its first project in 2001, the role of sports in reconciliation processes is not undisputed. Rather, the question is whether sports are either a dividing or a unifying force when it comes to processes of reconciliation. This essay discusses the F4P program in Israel and the role that it plays in attempting to unify and reconcile Jews and Arabs.
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Foul or Fair play? The role of sports in dividing or unifying Lebanon
17-01-2018

Abstract:
This paper discusses the role that sports can play in reconciliatory processes and focusses on sectarian-divided Lebanon as a case study. Lebanon is rather unique as it has 18 state-registered sects, the three largest being: the Maronite Christian, the Shia Muslim and the Sunni Muslim. Lebanon has been – and to a certain extent still is – troubled by severe sectarian differences and conflict. The last big violent conflict in Lebanon dates to the civil war of 1975-1990, in which over 140.000 people were killed, over 180.000 were injured and over 750,000 Lebanese were internally displaced. In academic literature, different “instruments” are discussed that – supposedly – can play a conciliatory or unifying role in countries, like nationalism and the creation of an imagined community (Anderson), institutionalization (Anssi Paasi), governmentality (Foucault), but also sports. This role of sports is, however, not undisputed.
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Destroying images to create another – Iconoclasm as part of the media strategy of ISIL
10-01-2018

Abstract:
In May 2015, the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra made headlines as it was conquered by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and several artifacts and buildings were subsequently destroyed by the group on purpose. It was ISIL itself that released several pictures that showed how it destroyed the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Temple of Bel, the Tower of Elahbel and several other buildings and statues. In Western debate and media this sparked a general outcry. After having been responsible for terrorist attacks, beheadings and killing Shi’i Muslims, ISIL’s iconoclasm once again seemed to “prove” that the organization is barbaric, destructive, fundamentalist and generally anti-civilization. In this way, ISIL’s iconoclasm fits very well in the frame that has been constructed of them in the West. Generally, the questions that non-Muslim audiences asked were: how could they do that to their own heritage? Why did they feel compelled to demand such a violent and total erasure of world history? Soon, it was argued Palmyra (as well as other historical sites for that matter) should be liberated from ISIL as soon as possible, in order to save as much as possible of the remaining historical heritage. These are understandable reactions to iconoclasm that are part of the general perception that “for a person who cares for beauty, it is hard to imagine that anyone would willfully alter – let alone mutilate – a work of art”. Seen from this (Western) perspective, it seems odd that ISIL openly displays its destruction of statues and buildings as it, in this way, provides further “ammunition” for the frame that is constructed of them in the West and that shows ISIL as a “barbaric” terrorist group. So why is ISIL so open about its destruction of images? In this essay, I will contend that ISIL’s iconoclasm is actually part of a conscious media strategy that aims at construction of a frame of its own that is simply aiming at a different audience. Moreover, part of ISIL’s media strategy is to be portrayed in the West as negative as possible and create as much antipathy as possible.
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Dealing with the “scars of history” – The effects of EU-funding on the social- and economic cohesion and integration in the Slovakian-Hungarian region of Košice (1995-2010)
11-06-2017

Abstract:
Starting in 1990, the European Union launched its first cross-border programs, also known as INTERREG, which was meant as a financial support to border regions designated Objective 1 (relatively poor) and Objective 2 (facing structural economic difficulties). INTERREG I (1990-1993), was for the most part a Western European project, but with the end of the Cold War, the attention of the EU had gradually shifted eastwards. Not only were the formerly socialist countries economically lagging, there were also many scars in need of healing. The Slovakian city of Košice (Kassa in Hungarian) is a good example in both regards and received funds from PHARE – Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) (1999-2004) and INTERREG III (2004-2006). This thesis sets out to research what social- and economic effects these so-called “Cohesion Funds” have had on this city and its surroundings. What is argued is that socio-economic cohesion in the region has only partially increased. Although Cohesion Funds can have a positive effect in certain contexts, this largely depends on the historical legacies of a region.
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Re-uniting the Twin Cities – The effects of INTERREG II and III on the social- and economic cohesion and integration in Euroregion Viadrina
14-01-2017

Abstract:
In Central Europe we can find the “Twin Cities” of Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice, which are not only divided by a river, but also by a border: that between Germany and Poland. Originally, the two cities were one and shared a single history that goes back at least 750 years when Frankfurt received its charter. It was with World War II, and the following Cold War, that Frankfurt changed thoroughly. After 1945, with the establishment of a new border between Germany and Poland, the Oder-Neisse line, the city was officially cut up. The two cities took on strict national ethnic profiles and oriented themselves away from each other: Frankfurt toward Berlin and Slubice toward Warsaw. On April 8th 1991, the border between a unified Germany and Poland was opened to visa-free travel for citizens of both states. It was around the same time that the European Union started its first INTERREG program (1991-1993), which was meant as a financial support to border regions designated Objective 1 (relatively poor) and Objective 2 (facing structural economic difficulties). The aim of this financial support was the enhancement of trans-European cooperation across borders, to support economic and social cohesion and to contribute to further socio-economic integration of the EU area. The East German Länder of Brandenburg (of which Frankfurt is a part) and Saxony applied for financial support through INTERREG in 1992, following the rationale that the new Länder not only (as former part of the GDR) had a relatively low GDP, but also were handicapped since they shared borders with a disadvantaged Central Europe. As negotiations between local elites, state officials of the Länder, and the EU were proceeding, it became clear that future INTERREG funds would be made available only under the condition that Euroregions were formed; a demand that was clearly inspired by the subsidiarity principle. To conform to this demand, the Euroregion “Pro-Europe Viadrina” was founded on 13 December 1993 in Frankfurt and Slubice. The goals were (and still are) to raise the standard of living in the region by creating a cross-border economic region, to further the idea of European unity and international understanding, to foster a good neighborly relationship between Poles and Germans, and to promote an integrated identity among Germans and Poles living in the border region through the pursuit of an interdependent trajectory. This essay combines an econometric approach with a socio-economic contextual approach and concludes that economic convergence is not taking place despite the fact that the two cities share a single history.
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Common-interest housing developments in the Netherlands and the United States
08-06-2016

Abstract:
Common-interest housing developments (CIDs) have been a growing, modern phenomenon all over the world. Visually it may be hard to distinguish a CID from a ‘normal’ neighborhood or apartment building, but what sets it apart is the fact that their residents share the same amenities and collectively decide how these are used and maintained. Dutch media and politicians have commented rather negatively on the CID, regarding it as something ‘American’, and fearing increased segregation of society. Considering Dutch CIDs as copies of the ones in the United States, means supporting Francis Fukuyama’s famous ‘End of history’ hypothesis. Fukuyama prophesized the worldwide spread of the western, liberal ideology after the end of the Cold War, which in turn would cause a converging tendency between countries all over the world. This essay will make a comparison in order to determine whether the Dutch CID is indeed part of a converging tendency.
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A serious game – Surveillance through sports during the Cold War in the USA and the GDR
26-05-2016

Abstract:
During the Cold War, both a capitalist, democratic country (the USA) and a socialist, dictatorial country (the GDR) resorted to controlling the world of sports as a means of influencing their societies. Sports and the Cold War actually seem to fit together perfectly. After all: sports allow countries to show their power and supremacy without actually resorting to violence. In 1945, George Orwell referred to international sports and the Olympics as ‘war minus the shooting.’ And to drive the metaphor a little further: sport is just as much about mobilizing an imagined ‘us’, and about competing, and eventually defeating, an imagined ‘them’ on the (battle-) field.  This essay sets out to compare the surveillance machineries that were built around sports in the USA and the GDR during the Cold War, and supports Giddens’ argument that aspects of totalitarian rule can emerge in all modern (democratic) states, as totalitarianism is a tendential property of the modern state
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