Unexpectedly, walls have undergone a renaissance: During the corona pandemic, walls – also in terms of isolation and self-distance – have proven to be an effective protection against infection. In Europe many countries even closed their borders temporarily. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 was marked by a lack of respect towards certain boundaries – such as animals’ habitats. Indeed, it seems to be an unsolvable problem of mankind to find a good closeness-distance relationship, not least towards its socio-cultural environment. This can be seen in the fact that in many parts of the world, more than thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, walls are back in business to exclude ‘otherness‘. Such walls have recently provoked protests, for example, against the racial injustices made all the more apparent by COVID-19. While real and virtual barriers are being raised at the behest of neo-authoritarian leaders, walls are also being constructed as internal defenses against the disruptions that arise from the digital innovations of ‘others‘. In this sense, the Berlin Wall still symbolizes the futile attempt to prevent people from coming into contact with unwanted peculiarities, ideas or changes coming from the other side.

ISPSO’s 37th Annual Meeting 2021 in Berlin is dedicated to examining these walls as defenses against otherness. The planning committee on behalf of the ISPSO Board is pleased to invite ISPSO members and non-members from all countries to join the conference on site or via zoom and to participate in discussing ideas, issues and questions raised by the challenges that they present.