Border Culture: Discussing the Centrality of Peripheral Issues to Renew Border Studies

featuring Dr. Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary (Grenoble-Alpes University, France)

This session was held virtually on March 28th, 2023, at 9AM PST. You can now watch the full presentation for free here!

Borders are spatial signifiers and culture is a process of semantization of human environments: border culture is a site where the perception of meaning is made spatially available. “Border culture is an evolving framework for encoding the meaning of border” (p.9). Based on the recent book co-written by Victor Konrad and myself (Border Culture: Theory, Imagination, Geopolitics. Routledge 2022), the webinar will address the nexus between culture and borders, trying to enhance the centrality of culture in the understanding of border dynamics. If border cultures are most evident at border crossings and in borderlands — however, border cultures that appear at the edge of national space reveal themselves to be also in the centre of transnational spaces — they are essential to understand the complex territorialities that shape contemporary geopolitics at its very heart. Borders were defined as international lines of divide at the same time as the Occidental world was framing the fundamental division between culture and nature. At a time where this duality is profoundly challenged by relational thinking in the context of the Anthropocene, “borderculture,” an expression recently coined by Astrid Fellner in a roundtable discussing the book at the ABS conference in Eilat (Feb. 2023), should allow us to open new conceptual developments in critical border studies.

Our aim in this book was “to decode the meaning of border culture,” and this Webinar will articulate two major questionings:

1. How are cultures bordered? Answering this first question takes us into a journey beyond simplistic views of culture territorialization, revealing that if cultural phenomena have borders, those are complex and indeed, that it takes all the literacy of critical border studies to understand their spatiality. I will thus try to guide the audience “out of the border culture trap”.

2. How are borders cultured? Making sense of this second fundamental question relies on the understanding that all borders are cultural productions, anchored in imaginaries. We have worked with a notion of culture that encompassed all that gave meaning to human lives, this allows us to question the multiple ways in which borders give meaning to our existences, through multiple layers, in an intersectional approach

Dr. Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary is full Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University, France and honorary member of the ‘Institut Universitaire de France’, former head of the CNRS Pacte research unit, a pluridisciplinary social sciences research centre. She is a political geographer dedicated to border studies, and her comparative analysis of the border dynamics in Latin America and in Europe has led her to formulate the notion of “mobile borders.” Her recent research concerns the interrelations between space and art, in and about contested places. She is a founding member of the ‘antiAtlas of borders’ collective, a science-art project, and she has animated the Performance Lab dedicated to structuring Practise Based Research in France.

Find more information on Border Culture: Theory, Imagination, Geopolitics (With V. Konrad, Routledge, 2022) here!

Border Culture: Discussing the Centrality of Peripheral Issues to Renew Border Studies