Border studies on the move: Going beyond the territorial-relational divide

Anssi Paasi
University of Oulu

The ‘border’ has become one of the keywords in social and cultural science since the 1990s. The utopia of a borderless world that reflected both neoliberal imaginaries of a deterritorialising world and the optimism related to the collapse of the Cold War East-West divide, was shaken by the 9/11 attacks in the US, which turned the attention of scholars to the relationship between borders and security issues. The simultaneous flows of immigrants and refugees have increased the complexity of these relations. This paper discusses and illustrates the actual ‘location’ of borders and (related) boundary-producing practices in a world that is characterised by the processes of globalisation, border-crossings and securitisation. It will accentuate the need to understand the contextuality of borders and will scrutinise two overlapping ‘forms’ of borders that seem to characterise the contemporary world: discursive landscapes of social power and technical landscapes of social control. Both modalities are historically and spatially contingent, are in operation simultaneously, and claim researchers to expand their concepts of border and bordering. The former resonates more clearly with such notions as ‘people’, nation, national identity, nationalism and memory, the latter with state, sovereignty, citizenship, governance, security and control. Both modalities destabilise and relocate borders as mere lines on the ground but yet are a crucial part of boundary producing practices. Borders are at the same time both mobile and not-so-mobile.

Memoryscapes into borderscapes: Notes on progress towards a border aesthetics

Stephen Wolfe
University of Tromsø

My paper will focus on the uses of interdisciplinarity within border aesthetics theory/research by focusing on representations of dynamic, memory-based, invisible borders in two contemporary autobiographical memoirs. I will take up these issues in my talk by discussing the relationship between borderscapes and memoryscapes in two very different texts that can only be usefully discussed by establishing an interdisciplinary theoretical focus. The set of theoretical texts I will use are by Doreen Massey, Jacques Derrida, Wolfgang Welsch, and M. Christine Boyer. My main focus will be on two autobiographical memoirs by European border crossers: The Speckled People by Hugo Hamilton (2004), and Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives by Carolyn Kay Steedman (1987). Both of these texts will give us the opportunity to explore the connections between the memoryscapes of autobiographical writing (a form of self-description) focused on the silent borders of language, class, and gender within families; and the very public stretched borderscapes represented in the politics of working class community in conflict with national political institutions during and after World War II in Dublin and London. Topographic and epistemological borders work together in the lives of the narrators of these texts, which is made clear when each of their family members crosses the borders between their home and the city. When crossing these borders the border-crossers must change their ways of seeing and unseeing, speaking and unspeaking, as they adapt themselves to school, work, or to the urban spaces they have entered. The borders they encounter also constitute temporal borders in their lives, marking out spaces of initiation, education, and identity development.

The second part of the paper will take up these two texts from a different perspective: that of border theory, looking especially at those ways in which these texts create figures of the border and of the border crossing, using them to demonstrate a working ‘border aesthetics’. For example, in Steedman’s slim historical-novella-theory book she represents the borders of her working class neighbourhood, the silenced gendered construction of her mother’s and her own subjectivities, and political struggles of the period within three conflicting forms of narrative: the fairy tale, the psychoanalytical case study, and the working class autobiography. Such medial tensions in the text allow an investigation of the figure of the border fold, both as it shifts our attention outward and inward simultaneously to interlocking forms of representation. While in Hamilton’s text, the borders of language, the geographic borders crossed by his German mother and Irish-speaking father in their travels, and even questions of Irish national politics are figured as a series of recursive loops.


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