Borders, Boundaries and Frontiers
boundaries, and frontiers are different kinds of spaces
characterized by particularly rich and conflict-ridden human interaction.
Some borders are political or legal, and thus somewhat abstract. Others
are bluntly physical, etched into the landscape: a river, a mountain
chain, a wall. Often vigorously monitored or militarized, borders are
nonetheless transgressed and permeable. People migrate past them, escape
over them, or try to rewrite them; goods are exchanged (or smuggled) over
them. Boundaries, in contrast, are generally more symbolic or figurative:
the cultural or linguistic perimeters that define a people or a nation.
They may be "ethnic," economic, cultural, even professional. Whenever
groups compete over resources or professional and/or cultural interests,
boundaries are threatened. Finally, frontiers are imprecisely defined
regions where interaction, conflict, adaptation, and mixing (mestizaje)
take place. Frontiers can be real sites (as the hinterland of a colonial
settlement, or Eastern Europe) or imagined (as the Seven Cities of Gold).
The theme of Borders, Boundaries and Frontiers helps us to conceptualize
how groups come into contact with one another through, and identities form
out of, colonialism, imperialism, migration, globalization, and cultural
interaction. In other words, understanding the representation of borders
and the people on both sides – whether portrayed as savages/barbarians or
as their “civilizers” – are integral to this theme.
In analyzing this theme, we hope to gain:
• an understanding of the major theoretical issues surrounding borders,
boundaries, and frontiers, such as:
--how and why borders are created or destroyed
--noting moments of relative porosity/transparency vs. ossification
--are borders, boundaries, and frontiers places or processes?
--how borders, boundaries, and frontiers contribute to perceptions
of difference among peoples
--how borders, boundaries, and frontiers feed into divergences
between centers and peripheral regions
• an appreciation for the historically specific issues and differences
emerging at different times and at different border/lands
• an understanding of the different ways “our own border” – the US-Mexico
border near Las Cruces, Mesilla, El Paso, and Ciudad Juarez – has been
envisioned and represented.