Should We Abolish Borders?

Gallery 101, 51b Young Street, Ottawa ON
Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

In conjunction with the exhibition, There’s Room, Ottawa Artists Respond to the Refugee Crisis, you are invited to a roundtable discussion on the question: should we abolish borders?

Guest speakers: Prof. Victor Konrad, Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University, Geography and Environmental Studies, and Prof. Jamie Chai Yun Liew, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Common Law section

Moderator: Rachel Kalpana James, artist

Should we abolish borders?

One of the great paradoxes of our times is that while people are migrating, shipping, communicating, and even thinking globally, the number, intensity and in-surmountability of borders has increased substantially around the world. The number of formal territorial borders has actually increased in the 21st century. Thousands of kilometers of border fences and walls have been erected between countries on most continents. Individuals and companies as well as nation states are fencing, gating and locking space and territory. Fewer people are moving freely between these spaces, and this movement is increasingly privileged. Most of us are obliged to reveal all about our identities and then to wait for permission and passage in an ostensibly borderless world.

The mounting power associated with borders and the processes of bordering has created concern and resistance among a growing number of travelers and migrants worldwide. Resistance is expressed in many innovative and creative ways ranging from graffiti on border walls to performances at border crossings. These artistic expressions explore what it means to be bordered in an increasingly borderless world.

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Victor Konrad: My presentation focuses on the interplay of borders and culture, and how this interaction or border culture offers a basis for understanding a growing creativity surrounding borders and bordering in a mobile world. My comments and illustrations are conveyed in four parts. First, is an inquiry into the establishment of imaginaries and the production of border images and framing of thought. Next, is construction of national narratives and counter narratives at the border. Third, is cultural production and border crossing, that is, the border viewed as a cultural project and the creation and affirmation of borderlands. Finally, is the consideration of borders within transnational culture. The border is moving beyond the border, and border culture is at once manifestation and imaginary, and an integral component of borders in motion as border culture is experienced by more people in more circumstances than ever before.

Should we abolish borders? Not likely, even if we could. Borders are a part of who are, and borders are becoming even more a part of who we are in globalization.

Jamie Chai Yun Liew : My talk will look at the politics of exclusion and how border measures are being used to utilize a multiple borders strategy by many countries in the world to keep asylum seekers from borders, allowing countries to avoid their international legal obligations in refugee protection. The focus will be on Canada's efforts to push our borders out to defer and deflect the arrival of asylum seekers and how this has allowed Canada to say that it has met its international obligations, weakened legal protections, and jeopardized many lives.

Biographies:

Dr. Victor Konrad (Carleton University) is adjunct research professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. He is co-author of Beyond Walls: Re-Inventing the Canada-United States Borderlands and numerous articles in the field of border studies. Dr. Konrad is co-director of Borders in Globalization, an international, interdisciplinary research and public policy project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dr. Jamie Chai Yun Liew (University of Ottawa) is a professor of immigration, refugee and citizenship law, as well as an immigration and refugee lawyer. She is the co-author of “Immigration Law” published by Irwin Law.

Rachel Kalpana James has a multi-media art practice that explores identity and belonging. She is a founding member and former Director of the South Asian Visual Arts Collective, Toronto. She has exhibited extensively in Canada and abroad. In 2003 James was invited by the Canadian High commission to tour/exhibit in Pakistan.