Spaces of Expectation: Mental Mapping and Historical Imagination in the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Region


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type


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.

Individual projects:

  • Norbert Götz: Spatial Politics – Shifting Regions: Baltic and European Perspectives
  • Janne Holmén: Past and Present in the Minds of Secondary School Students: A Bottom-up Approach to Mental Mapping in the Baltic and Mediterranean Rim
  • Jussi Kurunmäki: The European Parliament and the Baltic and Mediterranean Region: An Analysis of the Rhetoric of Political Communities and Multilevel Governance
  • Deborah Paci: Floating Islands: The Representation of Mediterranean and Baltic Islands in the 19th and 20th Century
  • Rolf Petri: Political Uses of the Mediterranean Metaphor from the 18th to the early 21st Century
  • Vasileios Petrogiannis (PhD Project): Layers of Spatial Identification: European Mobility from the Baltic and Mediterranean Regions to Sweden

  • 6–7 July 2018, Naples: Intensive seminar for project members
  • 23–24 January 2017, Rome: Workshop "Semantics of Space: Conceptual History Perspectives"
  • 1–2 December 2016, Stockholm: Transforming Spaces – Mastering Uncertainty: A Second Take on Area Studies in the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: CBEES Annual Conference 2016, session "Taking Stock of Baltic Sea Region Building"
  • 11 May 2016, Stockholm: Open guest lecture by Jörg Hackmann (University of Greifswald / University of Szczecin) on "The Baltic as Source of Power, Peace, Liberty and Security: Political Imaginations of Baltic Space"
  • 3 May 2016, Venice: Workshop "The Mediterranean: Ideas, Connections, Crossings, Risks"
  • 30 March – 2 April 2016, Valencia: European Social Science History Conference, session "Maritime Areas: Spaces of Changing Expectations"
  • 12–13 November 2015, Stockholm: Workshop: Mental Maps: Historical and Social Science Perspectives External link.
  • 12 November 2015, Stockholm: Södertörn Lecture "Mental Mapping and Eastern Europe" (Larry Wolff, New York University)
  • 19–20 October 2015, Mariehamn: Intensive seminar and study trip to the Åland islands
  • 9 September 2015, Stockholm: Open guest lecture by Emőke Horváth (University of Miskolc) on "The Problems of the Caribbean Identity"
  • 2 June 2015, Stockholm: Witness seminar "Nordic Cooperation in the Aftermath of the Cold War", with Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Mats Hellström, and Pär Stenbäck (in collaboration with Johan Strang, University of Helsinki, and Torbjörn Nilsson, Södertörn University)
  • 20–21 April 2015, Gdansk: Bilateral workshop with colleagues from the University of Gdansk and public lecture by Janne Holmén "Past and Present in the Minds of Secondary School Students: A Bottom-up Approach to Mental Mapping in the Baltic and Mediterranean Rim"
  • 13–14 November 2014, Venice: Workshop: Comparative Area and Transregional Studies: A Framework for the Baltic and the Mediterranean
  • 13–14 May 2014, Stockholm: Intensive seminar for project members
  • 4–5 April 2014, Stockholm: Fourth Civic Constellations Workshop: Rhetorical Perspectives on Spacial Civic Concepts: The Politics of the National, the Regional, and the Global (in collaboration with the research project Civic Constellation (CivCons))

  • Paci, Deborah. “La région baltique et ses îles: Un modèle régional de coopération.” História 18 (2018) 2: 194–203.
  • Kurunmäki, Jussi et al. “Mediterranean Diasporas: Politics and Ideas in the Long 19th Century.” Global Intellectual History 3 (2018) 3: 331–349.
  • Götz, Norbert and Janne Holmén (eds). “Mental Maps: Geographical and Historical Perspectives” [Special issue]. Journal of Cultural Geography 25 (2018) 2: 157–285.
  • Götz, Norbert and Janne Holmén. “Introduction to the Theme Issue: ‘Mental Maps: Geographical and Historical Perspectives’.” Journal of Cultural Geography 25 (2018) 2: 157–161.
  • Holmén, Janne. “Changing Mental Maps of the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Regions.” Journal of Cultural Geography 25 (2018) 2: 230–250.
  • Holmén, Janne. “Mapping Historical Consciousness: Mental Maps of Time and Space among Secondary School Students from Ten Locations around the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.”
    Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies 1 (2017) 1: 46–74.
  • Petri, Rolf (ed.). “The Baltic Sea: A Space of Changing Expectations” [Special issue], Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 7–75.
  • Petri, Rolf. “Region Building Around the Baltic Sea, 1989–2016: Expectations and Disenchantment.” Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 7–13.
  • Paci, Deborah. “From Isolation to Connectivity? The Views of the European Union on Mediterranean and Baltic Islands in the 20th and 21th Century.” Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 14–28.
  • Grzechnik, Marta. “Space of Failed Expectations? Building a Baltic Sea Region after the End of the Cold War.” Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 29–42.
  • Kurunmäki, Jussi. “Challenges of Transnational Regional Democracy: Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, 1991–2015.” Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 43–56.
  • Petrogiannis, Vasileios. “Spaces of Belonging and Intra-European Migration from Southern and Eastern Periphery to the North.” Comparativ 26 (2016) 5: 58–75.
  • Petri, Rolf. “The Mediterranean Metaphor in Early Geopolitical Writings.” History 101 (2016) 348: 671–691.
  • Wolff, Larry. Mental Mapping and Eastern Europe. Södertörn Lectures 12. Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2016.
  • Götz, Norbert. “Mapping the Oeuvre of Larry Wolff.” Mental Mapping and Eastern Europe. Larry Wolff. Södertörn Lectures 12. Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2016. 5–10.
  • Götz, Norbert. “Spatial Politics and Fuzzy Regionalism: The Case of the Baltic Sea Area.” Baltic Worlds 9 (2016) 3–4: 54–67.
  • Paci, Deborah. L’ arcipelago della pace. Le isole Åland e il Baltico (XIX–XXI sec.). Milano: Unicopli, 2016.
  • Petrogiannis, Vasileios and Linn Rabe. “What Is It That Holds a Region Together?” Baltic Worlds (2016) In-house edition: 4–9.
  • Strang, Johan and Norbert Götz (eds). Nordiskt samarbete i kalla krigets kölvatten:
    Vittnesseminarium med Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Mats Hellström och Pär Stenbäck. Samtidshistoriska frågor 33. Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2016.
  • Götz, Norbert and Johan Strang. “Inledning.” Nordiskt samarbete i kalla krigets kölvatten: Vittnesseminarium med Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Mats Hellström och Pär Stenbäck. Johan Strang and Norbert Götz (eds). Samtidshistoriska frågor 33. Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2016. 5–12.
  • Kurunmäki, Jussi. “The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference and the
    Ukraine crisis.” Baltic Rim Economies (2015) 3: 17.
  • Götz, Norbert. “Neutralität und Kooperation, Engagement und Intervention: Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik.” Der Bürger im Staat (theme issue “Skandinavien”) 64 (2014) 2–3: 176–182 (reprinted under the title “Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik” in: Das politische Skandinavien: Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft, Politik & Kultur. Bernd Henningsen, Sven Jochem and Siegfried Frech (eds). Schwalbach: Wochenschau, 2015. 241–257).
  • Götz, Norbert. “Introduction: Collective Identities in Baltic and East Central Europe”. The Sea of Identities: A Century of Baltic and East European Experiences with Nationality, Class, and Gender. Södertörn Academic Studies 60. Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2014. 11–28.

Spaces of Expectation is part of the Seabound Imagination-cooperation for research and training run since 2010 by Ca’ Foscari University and Södertörn University, coordinated by Prof. Rolf Petri (Venice) and Prof. Norbert Götz (Stockholm).

The 'Seabound Imagination' framework

Jussi Kurunmäki - Lektor, Docent

Vasileios Petrogiannis - Doktorand

Janne Holmén - PhD, Researcher, Uppsala University

Rolf Petri, Professor, Ca'Foscari University, Venice

Deborah Paci, PhD, Researcher, Ca'Foscari University, Venice

Research area / geographic area

Historical and Contemporary Studies History Historical Studies History Baltic Eastern Europe Europe

Project time

2014 — 2018


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