Liminal Lakes / Landscape, Materiality, and Border Making in a Balkan Wetland

Liminal Lakes / Landscape, Materiality, and Border Making in a Balkan Wetland


“Liminal lakes” is an extension of my PhD research project (University of the Aegean, 2012) that dealt with the contested conceptualizations, representations and local perceptions of landscape at triple border of Greece, Albania, and North Macedonia. Surrounded by high mountains, the twin Prespa lakes, Little Prespa, shared by Greece and Albania, and Great Prespa, divided between Greece, Albania, and North Macedonia, are part of the Prespa Park, the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans.

For my PhD research I conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Greek part of the Prespa lakes and I used different types of data, sources and materials, from 19th century maps and travel writing, to environmental studies, satellite images, interviews and social media feeds, to go through different scales, media, and modes of “producing space” in Prespa. The long-term engagement in this project made me rethink about the border as a fluid process of constant “re-bordering” and also caused a deep personal interest in the inefficiency of tools and technologies of “mapping”, often used and reproduced by scholars, against the richness of lived experience in the field. These are issues that I revisit and further explore through different angles in the projects I am currently working on. I also revisit my PhD project in light of current political developments and migrations in the Balkans.

Liminal Lakes

On 17 June 2018, Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zaev signed the historic Prespa
agreement, on the shores of the Great Prespa Lake, putting an end to the so-called name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia. The signing of the Prespa agreement marks the latest use of this borderland and its ruins as a performative stage. Prespa’s landscape and its ruins, both its celebrated Byzantine monuments and the contemporary ruins of villages deserted following the Greek Civil War (1946–1949), have been used as aesthetic and performative objects not only to serve nationalist narratives but also to negotiate processes of loss, mourning, or personal commemoration and reflection.


  • Papadopoulos, Dimitris C.. 2020. “Ruins of the Borderland: Ruin Affect, Aesthetics, and Otherness in the Prespa Lakes Region.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 38 (2): 399–423.
  • Papadopoulos, Dimitris C. 2020. “Boundary Work: Invisible Walls and Rebordering at the Margins of Europe.” In Laura McAtackney and Randall H. McGuire (Eds.) Walling In and Walling Out: Why Are We Building New Barriers to Divide Us?, 131–54. University of New Mexico Press.
  • Papadopoulos, Dimitris C. 2016. “Ecologies of Ruin: (Re)Bordering, Ruination, and Internal Colonialism in Greek Macedonia, 1913-2013.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20 (3): 627–40.
  • Papadopoulos Dimitris C.. 2010. “Shaping a lake: landscape experience and mediation in Prespa Park, Greece.” Doctoral dissertation, University of the Aegean, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication (in Greek, abstract in English):