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Olga Davydova- Minguet
and
Pirjo Pöllänen

This chapter studies the border from the perspective of gender, exploring the desires present in the current images and practices associated with the Finnish–Russian border and the act of crossing it. The analysis is based on long-term ethnographic work with autoethnographic observations of the border, border-crossings and the border area on both sides of Finnish–Russian border since the beginning of the 2000s. The chapter explores gendered border-produced desires through the prism of resentment and nostalgia, the sources of which we see in the perceptions and memories of Second World War and the Cold War era on the one hand, and in the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Soviet Socialism on the other. This is accompanied by different desires for crossing the border among border area residents of different backgrounds. For some the border represents a guarantee of national and personal security; for others the border represents access to desired other spaces: for Finnish border-crossers the ‘home’ and battle landscapes lost in the Second World War; and for the Russian-speaking immigrants living in Finland the welfare state and social security lost after the collapse of the Soviet system, which, it is believed, can be rediscovered on the other side of the border.

in Borders of desire
Croatia’s sexualised and gendered (self-)ascriptions and its desire for European belonging
Michaela Schäuble

This chapter links the historic Antemurale Christianitatis narrative of Croatia’s role as a bulwark separating ‘Christian Western civilisation’ from ‘Balkan barbarism’ to recent policies and media representations that gender and sexualise the nation. Croatia’s liminal position between Europe and the Balkans epitomises the desire for the respective ‘other’ on both sides, while it draws its own raison d’être from separating the two. Hence, Croatia can best be conceptualised as an ambiguous, contested site that is constantly (re)produced by and simultaneously produces desire. Politicized representations of gender, sexuality and ethnicity are most visible in the discourses on the ambiguous role of Croatian ex-generals in the aftermath of the so-called ‘Homeland War’ (1991–95) in which Croatia gained independence from Yugoslavia. In public discourse, the military success of Croatia – and ultimately the image of Croatia as a nation – is closely linked to the sexualised, mythic image of one man, former Lieutenant General Ante Gotovina. The chapter analyses a 2001 biography of Gotovina and ensuing film and television series adaptations from 2019. It argues that the narratives sketched therein construct the nation as being in need of a male protector and locate Croatia as wedged between an immoral Europe on one side and an uncivilised Balkans on the other.

in Borders of desire
Aija Lulle

This chapter examines how borders work to produce desires both in the form of sexualisation as well as through a lived sense of sexuality. The chapter is based on long-term fieldwork with Latvian migrants in Guernsey, UK. The chapter argues that the borders that people cross create new desires. Borders shape people as sexual beings in novel ways. By weaving together notions of ethnosexuality, bordering and desire, the chapter examines sexualisation in migrant spaces, at work and in public spaces.

in Borders of desire
Abstract only
Gender, sexuality and desire at the eastern borders of Europe
Elissa Helms
and
Tuija Pulkkinen

The Introduction to the collection of studies in Borders of Desire outlines and theorises the book’s approach to borders as being productive of desire. Instead of focusing on the ways in which borders obstruct, the volume asks what desires, particularly those around gender and sexuality, are produced by the very presence of borders. The Introduction presents the book’s performative approach, which emphasises not what borders are, but what borders do – and in this case, what desires they produce. It further introduces the agentic approach to desire drawing on Michel Foucault’s and Judith Butler’s theorisations of subjectivation, desire and resistance. The Introduction then explores the structuring themes of the volume’s chapters, highlighting aspects of fantasy, personal escape and transformation related to border-crossing; ethnosexualised borders which create desires for exoticised others; and political desires for certain pasts and futures marked by borders that may also provoke a desire to resist normative orders of gender and sexuality associated with border-related differences. The Introduction highlights the ways in which the chapters speak to these themes and to each other, showing how borders can trigger new desires expressed as aspirations, resentment, actions or movements. In laying out this approach, the Introduction also sets this book apart from most other studies that take borders for granted and desire as something that precedes the presence of a border. Instead, the Introduction stresses how gendered and sexualised desires are built through various configurations of imagination and bordering practices through which individuals are constantly called to be desiring subjects.

in Borders of desire
Abstract only
Multiple lives and desires in border-crossing prostitution
May- Len Skilbrei

This chapter investigates how desire is relevant for our understanding of transnational prostitution. The context is migration for and through prostitution across what used to be the Nordic–Soviet divide, across borders which during the last decades have changed their meaning and materiality profoundly. The chapter investigates the desires attached to the border, building on research among women from Eastern and Southeastern Europe who in the mid-2000s travelled back and forth between Norway, their country of origin and other countries on a regular basis, engaging in commercial sex in some or all of these places. The research demonstrates that desire for a different life than what could be realised by only ‘staying at home’ made mobility attractive and that the ethnosexual desire of Nordic men made it possible for the women to attain what they desired. In this scenario, what lies beyond the border is imbued with value and desirable objects for both sellers and buyers of sex, and the existence of the border plays a part in this. While desire is a feeling experienced on a deeply personal level, the desire for things and experiences that can only be accessed elsewhere, and the possibility of having one’s desires met, speaks to geopolitical, cultural and economic relations and changes. Borders are not only an organising principle, but also something that gains meaning and materiality through people’s desires and how they act upon them.

in Borders of desire
Gendered desire in the narratives of women from post-socialist countries in Italy and Finland
Anastasia Diatlova
and
Lena Näre

This chapter examines the ways in which women who have migrated from post-socialist countries to Italy and Finland narrate their reasons for migrating. Drawing on two different ethnographic research projects conducted in two different settings, the chapter analyses how migration can be a strategy for escaping certain gender relations or an attempt to take full advantage of other configurations of them. We explore the different dimensions of desire by looking at the continuum from sex to love as ways to ensure a better future and how this continuum sits in the post-socialist gender orders and their renegotiation in these migratory contexts. Moreover, we argue that mainstream migration literature needs to reconsider the idea of the migrant as an economically rational individual by taking into account the importance of desire as a driver of migration and as a key force which shapes gendered migratory mobilities.

in Borders of desire
Desire and the border in the southern Balkans
Rozita Dimova

This chapter examines the productive aspect of borders in the realm of the border hotel-casinos and beauty consumption practices in the Balkan region. For the regular gamers visiting the casinos on the Macedonian side of the border, the gaming universe opens up a possibility for trespassing on the rigid class boundaries that lock people into seemingly fixed subject positions determined by their rural background in northern Greece. Financial superiority entitles gamers to demand special treatment by the hotel-casino employees. Thus the desire to gamble becomes more than an addiction: it is an escape from the everyday, as crossing a border to gamble involves a creation of another reality and allowing the gamers to create their new selves. For the urban consumers from Thessaloniki, the border also offers the possibility of maintaining beauty practices such as cosmetic and hair-dressing services that are too expensive and unaffordable in Greece. The proximity of the border and the possibility to visit beauty parlours in Gevgelija enables these women to reinstate their sense of femininity and middle-class position; crossing the border makes them feel like women, which raises the question of the effect of the border on the notion of gender. Arguably, the crossing of a border affects the way desires intersect with other consumer aspects such as acquiring the luxury, comfort or status markers necessary for maintaining certain ethnically and class-marked modes of being a `real` woman.

in Borders of desire
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The identification of an American First World War MIA
Jay E. Silverstein

In 2004, the remains of two First World War US soldiers from France were delivered to the US Government for identification and burial. One set of remains was identified and buried, and the other went into a cold-case status. In 2019, the second individual was identified using multiple lines of evidence. The possible individuals that could be associated with the remains were reduced based on material evidence recovered with the remains and the spatiotemporal historical context of the remains. The First World War personnel records then offered sufficient biometric criteria to narrow the possible individuals associated with the second recovered individual to one person, Pfc. Charles McAllister. A family reference DNA sample from a direct matrilineal descendant of the individual added statistical weight to the identification, although the mtDNA was not a decisive or necessary factor in the identification. Due to bureaucratic reasons, the legal identification of Pfc. Charles McAllister is still pending.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Funeral workers’ experience with ‘contagious corpses’
Silvia Romio

The extremely high death rates in northern Italy during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic called for exceptional rules and suspension of funeral practices and burial rites. Additionally, forms of collective burial, typical of a wartime scenario, and mechanical methods and timing were reintroduced into the handling of corpses. Although several academic studies have highlighted how the absence of funeral ceremonies and ‘dignified burials’ has caused prolonged and deep suffering for the mourners and for many of the caregivers and health workers, few have so far focused on funeral workers. This article focuses on the intimate, emotional and ethical experiences of a group of funeral workers in northern Italy who handled COVID corpses and had to take the place of the mourners at the time of burial. Through an anthropological analysis of their oral memories, this work attempts to analyse their expressions of discomfort, frustration, fear and suffering.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal