One Border, Two Islands: Examining the Aegean Border Disputes through Imbros and Lesbos

Ercan Graham S.

18th Annual International Architectural Humanities Research Association Conference (Theme: Region), Leicester, United Kingdom, 11 - 13 November 2021, pp.39

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Leicester
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Page Numbers: pp.39


This paper proposes to explore issues concerning political borders imposed within the island region of the Aegean, focusing particularly on two Aegean islands – Imbros and Lesbos – as comparative case studies. Today the Aegean Sea functions as an unconventional threshold, separating Europe from the non-western powers of the Near and Middle East. Strategic political and international crises are concentrated on this arm of the Mediterranean Sea, many of which are carefully crafted in order to initiate certain negotiations between various actors. Beyond the immediate economic functions of these negotiations, there is the potential of the Aegean to become a different kind of borderland for those who inhabit it: one premised on being the physical site of a regulatory valve used to manage the flow of ongoing global migration into Europe via Turkey. Indeed, how the development of perpetual migration alters the understanding of the Aegean as a borderland is a process in the making and can go in many different directions. 

With that in mind, this paper claims that Imbros, as the westernmost landmass of Turkey, and Lesbos, as part of the easternmost groups of Greek islands, have been the key sites to examine the material, architectural and embodied ways in which the decisions concerning the borders of the EU – those which designated a series of Aegean islands as offshore borders of Turkey and Greece – shape not only the life on these islands but also challenge the idea of physical national borders as we know them. On the one hand, on a broader scale Lesbos and Imbros have blurred the notion of a hard boarder between the EU and non-EU powers. On the other hand, the borderland status of these islands has shaped their architecture, culture and landscape significantly during the last century. 

Keywords: archipelagos, Aegean Sea, sea borders