BIG Theme – Culture

Inuksuit, Foxe Peninsula, Baffin Island, Canada

The culture we produce – in its absolutely widest sense – comes out of specific geographical spaces but also transcends them, meeting and crossing borders. This much is hardly controversial. But in an ostensibly borderless world, these cultural landscapes can also become matters for preservation. Culture can be something to preserve or cling onto in the face of expanding flows of ideas, people and capital.

Thus teasing out this precise interplay of border and culture, how culture alters borders and how borders alter culture must be central to any investigation of borders and globalization.

The dynamic relationships between borders and culture are what create and sustain “cultural islands” that are spatially distinct. Put another way, we cannot speak of distinct cultures without reference to borders. But this relationship at the same time is always in motion, and in borderlands, we see simultaneously cultural continuity and discontinuity. Furthermore, the zone of borderland transition is increasingly extended.

Yet despite this fluidity, this dynamism, specific cultural representation clearly is highly resonant, often stridently so, amongst individuals and communities, and can at times provide expressions of resistance or antagonism. The interplay between border and culture is what forms a sense of identity amongst those who claim indigeneity, but also amongst those excluded from that identity.

The contradictions are multiple however, as border and culture both push toward singular sense of belonging – pressing toward homogeneity in cultural identity – and plural expressions of identity.

At the same time, which cultural products and practices manage to and do not manage to cross borders suggests an underexplored selectivity in these processes. And the array of cultural expressions of course often plays differently at or near the border, and at different scales.

Concretely, the research looked at border culture and its relationship with globalization. The Culture theme focused on processes of cultural integration and disintegration; indigenous culture; and cultural continuity across borders.

Quite naturally, this will also involve an exploration of arts and literature on the border and in the borderlands, whether the meaning of the border happens to be expressed in writing, poetry, music, film, art, theater, dance, painting, graffiti, or architecture, or any other form of border art.

Dr. Victor Konrad at Carleton University leads the Culture theme.