ANT 324L • Borders as Places to Live-W
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
International borders have long been neglected as objects for social sciences inquiry, despite the centrality which concepts such as boundary and frontier have enjoyed. For too long international state borders have been accepted as the self-evident limits of territorially defined notions of society and culture, their very existence conveying an illusion of pure or essential categories. It is only recently that political borders and their impact on the people they divide or encompass have been problematized. It is sometimes suggested that international borders are sites of hybridity and cultural experimentation. This is certainly worth exploring, however it is important not to lose sight of the impress which a dominant state may exert on borderlanders, on their identities and cultures. Borders offer privileged sites for studying the intersection of a state and its subjects and citizens; at borders we can explore how identities are performed, manipulated and negotiated both by people who cross the border or live alongside it, and by those who work there as agents of the state. Moreover, as interstitial, liminar zones, borders are places which may challenge scientific concepts such as culture, space, nation, society, and identity. Research on international borders offers various potential advantages for reasoning in general: first, such research involves a perspective across nation-states. Second, taking the border as a point of departure in the study of the state shifts the focus from centre to periphery, enabling new insights into how border peoples may actively influence national policies, identities and ideologies . And third, it offers us a view from below: of how ordinary people ascribe or deny relevance to cultural differences, how they actively enact and modify their notions of "nation", "culture" and "identity".
The course offers a theoretical base for analyzing borders, however, empirical case studies on the border between former East- and West Germany, on borders of Germany (to Poland, France, and other countries), on other borders in Europe and - to a smaller degree and for comparison - also on cases from outside (US-Mexico, Africa) will be the main focus of this course. Central will be the question about the cultural and social effects of state borders, about how borders inflect the behavior and world views of those who live there, and how borderlanders manage and manipulate borders often to their own advantage.
Donnan/Wilson: Borders: Frontiers of Identity, Nation, and State. Berg, 1999 Rösler/Wendl (eds.): Frontiers and Borderlands. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 1999. Haller/Donnan (eds.): Borders and Borderlands: An Anthropological Perspective. Special Issue of Ethnologia Europaea 2000, 30: 2.