When: April 20, 2013
International conference organized by the Raoul Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec at Montreal in association with the Association for Borderlands Studies
To be held during the 3rd week of October 2013
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the question still remains “Do good fences still make good neighbours”? Since the Great Wall of China, construction of which began under the Qin dynasty, the Antonine Wall, built in Scotland to support Hadrian's Wall, the Roman "Limes" or the Danevirk fence, the "wall" has been a constant in the protection of defined entities claiming sovereignty, East and West. But is the wall more than an historical relict for the management of borders? In recent years the wall has been given renewed vigour all around the world, whether in North America, in Europe (with the Greek border fence), in Asia (for instance in India) or in Middle East. But the success of these new walls in the development of friendly and orderly relations between nations (or indeed, within nations) remains unclear. What role does the wall play in the development of security and insecurity? Do walls contribute to a sense of insecurity as much as they assuage fears and create a sense of security for those ‘behind the line’? Exactly what kind of security is associated with border walls?
- Élisabeth Vallet, Adjunct Professor, Department of Geography and Research director of Geopolitics at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair UQAM
- Charles-Philippe David, Raoul-Dandurand Chair and Full Professor of Political Science, UQAM
- Heather Nicol, Professor of Geography, Trent University, President (2011-2012), Association for Borderlands Studies
This conference deploys the metaphor of the wall as is seeks to understand the development of a global trend involving the expanding category of ‘problematic’ peoples, constructed in context of an intersection between biopolitics and geopolitics, as well as an expanding list of ‘insecure ‘places. The latter, that is to say the category of insecure places’ holds a double-meaning, however. Such a list of places can be geopolitical, embedded within a global consensus concerning international relations and power arrangements, or it can be internal, referring to the new and vulnerable margins of state, where security violations are possible and where greater vigilance is demanded. What kind of walls are we seeing in response to this intersection of geopolitics and biopolitics and the new spatialization of insecurity it represents? What effect will this have on those whose citizenship status is either newly completed, ongoing, or perceived as marginal?
In the post-9/11 world, fences and towers reinforce and enclose national territories, while security discourses link terrorism with immigration, and immigration with illegality, criminal violence and radical Islam. The European Union (EU) claims to tear down walls, while building external walls ever higher. At the same time, the US considers how best to deploy towers and walls along its border zones while implementing an integrated border management regime. This development is not limited to these two world regions, however. Elsewhere in the global world walls dissecting borderlands are becoming higher. In Asia, India is finishing up its fence around Bangladesh. On all four continents, changes in border policy go along with a heightened discourse on internal control and a shift from borderlines to an ubiquity of control. Such walls are ‘walling in’ as well as ‘walling out’. By this we mean that the traditional geopolitics of bordering are supplemented, rather than fully replaced, by a national biopolitics, involving new definitions of who belongs and who does not belong, who is potentially represented as a threat and a risk internally, and who should be removed from the body of the state.
The experience of migrations, asylum-seekers, targeted ethnicities, and non-citizen residents has also been profoundly touched by securitization assessments rooted in geopolitics emanating from assessments of conditions outside of the state. Law-enforcement agencies at national and even international level, problematize ethnicity and identity in context of terrorism and criminality, or associated geopolitical orientations based upon nationalist and ethnicity. Systems and facilities for monitoring and gathering data on migrants and asylum seekers, are a product of the opportunity offered by border control, and are now an important component of a counter-terrorist agenda. They too, demand walls in which to embed their technologies.
Using these two lenses, geopolitics and biopolitics, as paradigmatic types, and using the metaphor of the wall to mobilize our discussions, this conference explores the way in which physical and virtual walls are now essential to internal and external definitions of risks, ‘Others’ and “risky people”. Within this framework, constructions of ‘terrorist threat’ as a basis for geopolitical relations is but one example, and the profiling of young Muslim males by Western nations part of a bigger process of securitization based upon the intersection of geopolitics and biopolitics, now made iconoclastic.
This leads us to a second and equally important and inter-related theme. Border walls, as Balibar reminds us, are experienced differently by different peoples. Crossing the line demarks the beginning, rather than the end of any transnational process. All of this means that even as walls are increasingly assembled, they are also increasingly portable—diffuse and outwardly-oriented, for example through security and border agreements, and inward and inflexible through legislation and public opinion. So while the direction which such projection of border takes is generally determined by well-understood political and geopolitical goals and power arrangements, as in the cadastral of EU and U.S. boundary management protocols, whereby neighbouring states are subject to security hegemonies, there is another dimension to this apparently seamless, diffuse and open-ended process which has been confused with “borderlessness”. This is the way in which such diffusion also enables the inward intrusion of borders, whereby, “borders are folded inwards”. Crossing a physical territorial border, or slipping through the outer wall, is only one in a series of events faced by the migrant, and increasingly, the citizen. New walls are encountered everywhere.
Conference main theme:
Participants are encouraged to critically examine the role of wall in security discourses, particularly with respect to immigration and citizenship, and to consider some of the following questions:
Theme 1. Border fences, walls and identities
Construction of national and local identities
Theoretical limology, walls and epistemology
Anthropological approaches to border walls and fences
Sociology of the walls/fences and their borderlands
Theme 2. Impacts of border walls
Social and environmental impacts
Security industry and border fences & walls
Art, Borders and Walls
Theme 3. Legal aspects of border walls
Separation and legitimation
Border walls: failure or success?
International, national and local
Legal aspects: Human rights and the wall, norms and the wall
Theme 4. Biopolitics of border walls
Security discourses, geopolitical and biopolitical assessments, and walls
9/11 security discourse, marginality and border fences
Spatialization of insecurity and border fences
Deadline for abstract submission: April 20, 2013
Proposal: please include the following information (300 words)
- Name of authors/contributors
- Institutional affiliations, titles
- Contact: telephone, fax, email, mailing address
- Title of the paper
- Abstract: Subject, empirical frame, analytical approach, theme
Languages: Proposals can be submitted in French and English (Spanish?). However the conference will be held in English.
Send your proposals via email in Word format to Élisabeth Vallet at UQAM.
Conference Dates and Deadlines:
- April 20, 2013: deadline for submitting abstracts and proposals
- June, 2013: proposals selection and notification sent to presenters
- August 24, 2013: submission of papers to discussants
- October, 2013: Conference to be held in Montreal.