Baltic Hospitality. Receiving Strangers / Providing Security on the Baltic Sea Coasts, c. 1000–1900

Södertörn University, Stockholm
Wojtek Jezierski / Sari Nauman / Christina Reimann / Leif Runefelt
22.04.2020 - 24.04.2020
Christina Reimann

For the past millennium the Baltic coastal regions, urban and proto-urban areas, and harbours have functioned as spaces of connectivity and intercultural encounters. This conference and the prospective volume address the tension between hospitality and hostility towards many various guests arriving to those regions from the “discovery” of the Baltic around 1000 until the end of the nineteenth century when modern conventions regulating immigration and rights to asylum began to emerge. The ambition of this conference is to determine how this tension was practically resolved by reception or rejection of strangers and provision of security for the host community.

Missionaries, crusaders, merchants, sailors, pirates, stranded or commandeered seamen, groups of people displaced in the wake of war, pestilence, or famine, refugees, soldiers, deserters, vagrants, wayward troops or religious communities, travelling priests and artists, émigrés etc. can all be considered as guests or strangers arriving to different host communities scattered all over the Baltic Sea. By focusing on the social orders established at the land/sea intersection, which were susceptible for disruption by the arrival of others, the goal of this conference is to explore the contingencies of (in-)hospitality on the Baltic Rim in a long transhistorical perspective. Which continuities and changes in approach to strangers can be identified during the studied period?

In order to enable such a transhistorical view we encourage contributions that reach beyond the epoch-specific categories of displaced person, refugee, or migrant. Instead, we suggest conceptualizing the periods and situations of escalating migration, intensified mobility and confrontation from the past millennium as challenging relations between host communities and arriving guests. We propose investigating the way arriving strangers were treated by their host communities on the critical continuum between hospitable and hostile response. We encourage the contributors to address the question of how the ambiguities of hospitality have been historically resolved by provisions of security for the host community and/or for strangers. Customs, institutions, regulations, and discourses of hospitality are here considered as spatially situated techniques to cope with the double challenge: answering to perceptions of threat and providing protection.

The organizers invite contributions – by historians, legal scholars, historians of ideas, archaeologists, art historians, political scientists etc. – focusing on cases of reception and/or rejection of strangers actualizing the dilemmas of hospitality and securitization in premodern and modern contexts. The goal is to offer insight into the spatial, cultural, economic, legal, and conceptual practices of hospitality and their connection to securitization through which host-guests relations and initial confrontations were articulated between 1000 and 1900.

Possible topics and questions for contributions include, but are not limited to:
- What representations (linguistic or imagistic) of strangers did past host communities create? How did these images guide the security responses to the arriving guest?
- What attributes and identifications of strangers (religious, economic, political, gendered, social, racial, national etc.) influenced the ways hosts resolved the hospitality dilemmas in concrete contexts?
- Which actors among the host communities assumed the responsibility to provide security vis-à-vis arriving aliens? Who were the objects of protection measures from host communities? Which groups met strangers with hostility?
- How did responsibility for receiving strangers move up or down from the local to supra-local levels? What did their transition from local, pre-state to state contexts of response looked like? How were the specific “migrant crises” used to transform these structures?
- Were there specific strategies for female and male travellers, and were women and men received differently in certain contexts? How did gender issues influence the reactions of host communities?
- How did migration and hospitality measures relate to economic, confessional and political networks? To what extent did these networks and contexts overlap?
- How did the different means of travel (by sea, land, over borders or within a region) relate to hospitality and security problems?
- What spatial resolutions of hospitality can be identified? How were the arrival and movements of strangers contained in terms of space and security measures? We especially welcome contributions regarding specific housings, shelters and accommodations as well as investigations as to what plans and strategies for containment and isolation or cohabitation with the local population were set up in specific settings.
- What is the legal and ideational legacy of Baltic hospitality? How did historical events shape the ideals and legal standards of hospitality that emerged around the Baltic Sea during different periods?

Please send abstracts of 300-400 words by 14 October 2019 to:
Accepted participants will be notified by mid-November 2019.
Participants will be reimbursed for travel and accommodation costs.


Keynote speakers:
- Prof. Eckart Conze, Marburg University, SFB “Dynamics of Security”
- Prof. Michael North, University of Greifswald, Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research (IFZO)


Christina Reimann
Institutionen för Historiska Studier, Box 200, 405 30 Göteborg

Baltic Hospitality. Receiving Strangers / Providing Security on the Baltic Sea Coasts, c. 1000–1900, 22.04.2020 – 24.04.2020 Stockholm, in: H-Soz-Kult, 17.06.2019, <>.