Borders and Borderlands in Contemporary Culture
  • Borders and Borderlands in Contemporary Culture

Borders and Borderlands in Contemporary Culture

Author: Aoileann Ni Eigeartaigh, David Getty

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Key Features:

  • Publisher : Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • ISBN/EAN : 9781904303831
  • Format : Hardback
  • Pagination : 135
  • Dimensions : 220 x 150
  • Country of Pub. : United Kingdom

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£ 39.89

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It is entirely appropriate that this book should be produced in Dundalk. Located on the Northern rim of the Irish Pale, this town has straddled a border for centuries. Over the past thirty years, it has come to be closely identified with violent republicanism both by the Unionist Community in Northern Ireland and by Constitutional Nationalists in the South. Against such a hostile background academics attached to the Institute of Technology there have bravely confronted and interrogated these processes which have so blighted history not only of Dundalk but of places and spaces throughout the world similarly located. In a wide ranging series of articles, perhaps the strongest message to emerge is that of border as limitation. The notion of border as a liminal space where worlds converge, new realities emerge and transcendence is possible rarely surfaces. Instead, the border as a physical manifestation of divisiveness is repeatedly explored. In a passionate statement of solidarity with the Palestinians, Lavalette describes the construction of the apartheid wall: The wall is eight feet high and has a watch tower every three hundred metres. Although there are no maps, it is thought it could end up being close to one thousand kilometres in length by the time it is completed (p18). Yndigegn shows how spatial borders gradually become mental borders such that, as visual borders disappear, new invisible borders appear: (p.33). The article explores the dualism of borders - simultaneously protecting those inside from external threats while also preventing those inside from reaching or engaging with the outside world. Ni Eigeartaigh takes up the duality theme in the exploration of individualism as a process either of liberation or one of alienation. Taking the title from an aphorism of Kafka's My Prison Cell, My Fortress , she explores a view of contemporary society as repressive, and of its inhabitants as complicit in the repression. Drawing on a wide span of literature and disciplines, she teases through the paradox of contemporary society that the freedom gained from the liberation of the individual from communal obligations and repression has resulted in a loss of identity and an overwhelming sense of isolation and powerlessness. She concludes that in the absence of a restrictive system of social control, the individual is forced to take responsibility for his own actions...It is to avoid this responsibility that many...choose the security of the prison cell above the hardship of the outside world. Her Paper does not go on to look at the potential role of the State or of Fundamentalist movements in playing on the fear and disconnectedness of the citizenry as an equally likely outcome to that of a stronger capability for personal responsibility. One could argue for instance that the Euoropean Fascist movement and the Nationalist movement of the early to mid -twentieth century, were both based precisely on the dislocation at personal and social level resulting from the breakdown of pre-industrial communitarian ties. While there is no attempt in the book to elucidate any particular developmental relationship between the different contributors, two broad themes may be detected - a concern with borders as socio-political and geographical constructs on the one hand and a concern with the formation of identity in the individual's relationship to the wider society on the other. Some light is cast on the latter issue by de Gregorio-Godeo who posits discourse as a core concept in identity formation. This leads to the conclusion that individual identity, in this case individualism, is in fact socially constructed in a dialectical interplay between the discursive and the social identities included - so that they are mutually shaped by each other (p93). Using critical discourse analysis, he goes on to explore changing notions of masculinity as evidenced in the Health sections of men's magazines. This is an important book. It explores the fundamentals of discord, power differentials and oppression at personal, national and global levels. It calls attention to the ways in which space, place, identity and war interact with each other to produce situations where the absence of peace and security becomes endemic (p32). It is being published at a time when ancient borders between the East and the West are yet again the subject of international strife and present possibly the most ominous single threat to global harmony and peace. It shows that a country such as Ireland, with its own very particular history is uniquely placed to explore boundaries and to negotiate agreed borders on the geopolitical front. To the extent that this book begins and contributes to such a process it is to be greatly welcomed. -Tom Collins -National University of Ireland Individual and collective identity seems to be impossible without borders, i.e. a clear distinction between me/us and the others. Borders even appear to be something human beings do need. Historically the national states, political alliances and religious movements have managed to establish borders as if they are natural. We are witnessing currently a similar endeavour (by politicians, journalists and scientist) to make us think in terms of cultures. However, to define myself or ourselves, the others are needed. In any case, it is a type of communication. And historically, with regard to human and societal development, people have had all types of exchange across the borders. Borders are links. Of course borders have been helpful in terms of protection and security. There might be even liberties which can only be experienced within borders (territorial, social oder legal ones), but for sure people have been suffering severely because of restrictions and compulsions due to borders, too. The wall in Germany forced thousands, millions of people to stay in GDR and bear the undemocratic regime. Even this border of barbed wire had been permeable to some amount: by TV, letters and packages and visits from the West. East Germans could manage to go West until 1961 via Berlin, then a few succeeded in escaping under high personal risk; pensionists got the allowance to leave GDR, others could attend family events in West Germany; in the 1980s more and more citizens applied for legal permission to emigrate. The political unification was based on a collective identity doubtlessly though there used to be a kind of East-West tention in Germany, which did not disappear totally. Sometimes East Germans have experienced unification as annection and patronizing, and many of those (two or three millions) who were close to the regime lost their jobs (and privileges). There are, it cannot be ignored, people in West Germany, who miss the borders, too: the access of the East (beginning with GDR 1990, the enlargement of 2004, not ending with Romania and Bulgaria) is threatening for them because of economic reasons - hence the traditional (i.e. cold war based) reluctance can easily be utilized for political purposes. With regard to borders the European Union is a postmodern project which deserves respect and support - not only because it has reduced the importance of national borders (reduced only, as it is still governed by national governments). But it is far from being or becoming something like a (just bigger) national state. It has got a new quality, as its borders are changing and relative. Inside the EU there is, for instance, a distinction between Euroland and the rest. There are quasi member states (like Switzerland or Norway) and privileged associates (ACP-countries), and access is not restricted principally (Turkey, Croatia, Ukraina? etc). Inside and outside EU-borders are not absolute, but variable. Borders give structure. It is neceasary to know where which tax legislation is in force. It facilitates political participation when people can identify the administrator of the local school. It is helpful to know what is the range of a social or regional fund . Historically and till today, the crucial issue was: borders have had manyfold, multiplied functions. If one and the same border delineates people in several or even all aspects, in terms of property, territory, political systems, ideology, religion, ethnicity, language, or culture then it is a total border. This total border neglects and oppresses the reality of exchange and the human need of communication. Borders, which structure the reality under one aspect only, are helpful. Total borders are dangerous. Trade is universal. Borders cannot prevent people from exchanging goods (and, by the way, knowledge). Whereas cultural scientists used to analyze the appearance of a particular item in the territory (cultural circle), more and more politicians argue with cultures which can be distinguished as if there are borders between them. In order to reject this type of culturalism it suffices to recognize, that culture is no thing , but a term for that what people believe, feel and act. And as people communicate with each other and move, there is no border between cultures. But of course particular people share particular patterns of behaviour while others do not. But altogether, they have communities, maybe, of fashion or lifestyle. Theisamic world is a media world like Western countries. Due to migration and mobility, including all types of tourism, and the media in general, people are communicating. Cultures are in exchange - we would like to say; however, this is not correct, as culture is an abstract term, no actor. There are cultural industries (TV, advertisement) which try to influence people's desires, perceptions, patterns of behaviour etc, but have recognized yet that there are so many different subcultures , lifestyles and living conditions that any marketing has to cope with that variety. There are persons who do overcome borders as they come over borders. Sometimes the political borders change and thus citizenship; Franz Kafka for instance, born in Austrian Empire, continued to speak and write in German language as a citizen of Czechoslovakia. Others, for instance the painter Lyonel Feininger, are transnational because of their parents (e.g. German-American couple). Think about the third generation of immigrants in Germany - they have still links and ligatures to their home country, Turkey for instance. Those transnational personalities give an example how borders can be crossed. let us take into account people living in all the borderlands, regions like at the river Rhein, which bring together French, German and Swiss people. Be aware of a double town like Gorlitz-Zgorzelec, which has good chances to become nominated as European capital of culture 2010 - neglecting the German-Polish border, but using it, too (as a relative, linking border).

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