Borders of desire

Gender and sexuality at the eastern borders of Europe

Elissa Helms
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Tuija Pulkkinen
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Borders of Desire takes a novel approach to the study of borders: rather than seeing them only as obstacles to the fulfilment of human desires, this collection focuses on how borders can also be productive of desire. Based on long-term ethnographic engagement with sites along the eastern borders of Europe, particularly in the Baltics and the Balkans, the studies in this volume illuminate how gendered and sexualized desires are generated by the existence of borders and how they are imagined. The book takes a performative approach, emphasizing not what borders are, but what borders do – and in this case, what they produce. Borders are thus treated less as artefacts of desires and more as sources of desire: a border’s existence, which marks a difference between here and there, can trigger imaginations about what might be on the other side, creating new desires expressed as aspirations, resentments, and actions including physical movements across borders for pleasure or work, while also as enactments of political ideals or resistance. As the chapters show, sometimes these desires spring from orientalising imaginaries of the other, sometimes from economically inspired fantasies of a different life, and sometimes from ethnosexual projections or reimaginings of political pasts and futures. Taken as a whole, Borders of Desire offers new perspectives on the work borders do, as well as on the gendered and sexed lives of those in and from the eastern borders of Europe, and the persistent East/West symbolic divide that continues to permeate European political and social life.

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