Borders & Identities
Toward a Global Dialogue
January 23, 2013, 10 AM – 7:30 PM
East Room of Buell Hall at Columbia University
Session 1: 10:00 AM – 12:15 PM
1. Jean Franco
Professor Emerita, Columbia University
▸ When Borders Become Frontiers
What happens when a border becomes a national frontier? This is a topic that has lately interested European historians concerned with the formation of nations following the break- up of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As a recent review in The Nation pointed out, “between l914 and l948 millions of people were uprooted to create homogeneous nation states,”in a region where “linguistic cultural, ethnic, national and confessional groups” intermingled. Frontiers signify not only the criminalization of undocumented border crossings but create new national imaginaries which can have serious consequences when race becomes the differentiating factor as it did in l938 when General Trujillo had thousands of black Haitians slaughtered with machetes along the Massacre River in an effort to make the frontier not only a national boundary but a racial divide with consequences that resonate into the present.
2. Bodhisattva Kar
Historical Studies, Cape Town
▸ Joint Stocks and Racial Stocks: Limited Liability of Frontier Histories
This paper registers a resonance between the ways in which frontiers as zones of exception are naturalized in the nation-statist historiography and the money capitalists’ financial risks are limited in the legal framework of joint stock companies. Considered in the particular historical context of the northeastern frontier of British India, the resonance allows us not only to reconceptualize the distinctive style of governance and the pattern of production and performance of ‘tribal’ identities in the region, but also to articulate a few questions about the exceptive technologies of rule and risk that continue to shape the so-called postcolonial present.
3. Robert Barnett
Director, Modern Tibet Studies, Columbia University
▸ Revisiting the Chinese ‘Outer-Frontiers’ and the Question of Yeasty Working
This paper looks at ways of thinking about flows of people and ideas across China’s borders with its southern neighbors by reinvoking Owen Lattimore’s work on Inner Asia eighty years ago. Drawing on the broad sweep and longue durée approach of Wittfogel and Braudel, Lattimore studied the role of environment and geography in history, added an acutely political analysis, and looked at the interplay of these with technologies of imperialism and other forms of power at that time. Using these tools today, how much has changed and how much still applies?
Q & A
12:15 – 2:00 PM — Lunch break; box lunch for speakers
Session 2: 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
4. Evan M. Mwangi
▸ Borders and Internal Violence in African Literatures
This paper calls on literary texts from Nigeria, Zanzibar, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Somalia, South Africa, and Kenya within a global comparative context to comment on the problematics of borders in the representations of ethnic violence, inequality, and internal colonialism. The texts depict stark differences in Africa based on border-like binaries that suggests sets of “two Africas”: Muslim/ Christian, poor/rich, male/female, civilized/primitive, national/ethnic etc. At the heart of all the texts under analysis is the question whether Africa should dissolve existing colonial boundaries or redraw new ones to allow for the internally colonized ethnic nations to emerge. Acknowledging the setbacks confronting initiatives to resolve differences within the continent, the paper explores the strategies available to help initiate and broaden dialogue across borders that separate the “two Africas”.
5. Javier Duran
Director, Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, University of Arizona
▸ Securing Arizona: Fear, Anger and Displacement in the Desert Migrantscapes
This paper discusses recent legislative actions by the state of Arizona such as SB 1070, HB 2281, and HB 2586. Departing from a re-deployment of Spivak’s notion of epistemic violence and invoking Appadurai’s geography of anger it critically engages with two main issues: a) the notion of border securitization through a prosthetics of law as promoter of epistemic and administrative violence, b) borderization and migrantscapes as processes that re-map and destabilize accepted and contested notions of the border, and as working hypotheses and instances of control and intervention.
6. Judith Butler
Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University
▸ General Response
3:30 PM — Coffee break
3:45 – 4:30 PM — Plenary session
4:30 – 6:00 PM — Reception and light meal for all
6:00 - 7:30 PM — Precious Knowledge film and Q&A
Student activists Alanna Castro and Pricila Rodriguez will be present for the discussion Precious Knowledge (2011, Director, Ari Luis Palos; Producer, Eren Isabel McGinnis) is a documentary centered on the banning of the Mexican American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District of Arizona. The film follows the lives of four students and several teachers in one of the final years of the highly successful but controversial Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School. The film was awarded the Premio Mesquite for Best Documentary at the Cine Festival at the Guadalupe Cultural Art Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The documentary Precious Knowledge interweaves the stories of students in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School. While 48 percent of Mexican American students currently drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with on average, 93% percent of enrolled students graduating from high school and 85 percent going on to attend college. The filmmakers spent an entire year in the classroom filming this innovative social justice curriculum, documenting the transformative impact on students who become engaged, informed, and active in their communities.