Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Februar 2006

5.6. Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation

Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Ludmilla Kostova (University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Report: Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation

Ludmilla Kostova (University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria)


The symbolic significance of borders in contemporary culture is signalled by, among other things, the growing number of organizations whose names defy the separation implied by institutionalized lines of demarcation. Apart from the famous Medecins Sans Frontieres /Doctors Without Borders, there are associations of architects, lawyers, teachers, repoters and engineers that similarly proclaim the global scope of their activities by metaphorically negating borders. The participants in the IRICS session on border zones attempted a re-assessment of some of the literal and figurative meanings of borders. The session was interdisciplinary in character and involved participants from a variety of fields ranging from literary studies to sociology and physics.

The convenor's introduction focused on borderland anthropology and the contribution of scholars such as Renato Rosaldo to the development of research in a multitude of areas of the humanities and social sciences. Following the publication of Rosaldo's seminal book Culture and Truth (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), research on border zones has tended to address questions of identity, cultural citizenship, and linguistic and cultural hybridity. The study of border zones initially focused on problems specific to the U.S.-Mexico border. Rosaldo and his followers drew attention to border zones as "sites of creative cultural production” rather than "analytically empty transitional zones" (Rosaldo 1989:208). They further emphasized the “creative creolization” along borders and highlighted the role of the hybrid populations of such areas in “subversively appropriat[ing] and creoliz[ing] master codes, decentering, destabilizing, and carnivalizing dominant forms through ‘strategic inflections’ and ‘re-accentuations’” (Lavie, S. and Ted Swedenburg, Displacement, Diaspora and Geographies of Identity, Durham: Duke UP, 1996: 9). The session's convenor stressed the need to broaden the scope of borderland research by applying some of its key insights to parts of the world different from the U.S. - Mexico border.

Apart from the concept of hybridity, which plays a major role in borderland research, special emphasis was placed on the notion of liminality. Derived from the Latin limen (threshold or boundary), this concept is also closely linked to research in anthropology. Initially theorized by Victor Turner (1920 - 1983) as a threshold state of ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy, liminality has come to play a fairly important role in sociological research as well as in literary and cultural studies.

The participants in the session fruitfully explored the implications of the concepts of hybridity and liminality for their respective fields and topics of research. Considerable attention focused on the re-structuring and deconstruction of traditional notions of space in a variety of contexts ranging from the airport as an "economy of flows" where "borders are routinely 'performed'" ( Hannah Knox, Damian O'Doherty, Theo Vurdubakis, Chris Westrup ), through the contesting of geopolitical borders and the subversion of sexual boundaries (Hanna Hacker) to the dissolving of landscape in desert movies ( Ekkehard Knoerer) . The liminal aspects of travel likewise stimulated debate. Monika Fischer's thought-provoking essay considered the relevance of theories of testimony and, specifically, the method of parrhesia or truth telling, to travel writing about Afghanistan whereas Sorina Serbanescu looked at the symbolic significance of the figure of the traveller in writing by Paul Claudel and Lucian Blaga.

Liminality was further linked to fantasies of the self and the other and constructions of identity in contexts as different as online communication (Angela Goddard), postmodern fiction about the "long" eighteenth century and its (anti-)heroes (Ludmilla Kostova) and latter-day literary reinterpretations of Prospero figures by John Fowles, Iris Murdoch and John Banville (Elena Andonova). Border zones were likewise explored within the contexts of contemporary Australian literature (Jaroslav Kusnir on Richard Flanagan), teenage fiction (Ludmilla Miteva on Terry Pratchett) and Luxembourg poetry (Oliver S. Mueller on Nico Helminger). The problematization of traditional categories in/through language (Boryana Bratanova) and the gendered/gendering spaces of social life (Elissaveta Evdoridou and Theodoros Karakasidis) also provided opportunities for fruitful debate. The crossing, re-inscribing and contestation of borders were central to David Jenkins's perceptive analysis of the controversial processes involved in the buying and selling property and cultural images within the economic context of post-communist Bulgaria. Gergana Apostolova examined an identifiable South Eastern European legacy of shared legends thus transgressing national borders.

Overall, the session encouraged an exchange of ideas and provided meeting ground for academics from a multitude of national contexts ranging from the United States, through Western Africa, to South Eastern Europe.

© Ludmilla Kostova (University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria)

5.6. Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  16 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Ludmilla Kostova (University of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria): Report: Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW: _bericht16.htm

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