This chapter examines the problem of territoriality and borders in the digital age through an investigation of the materiality of data clouds as well as their artistic representation by the US artist and activist Trevor Paglen. Starting from the ambiguity of the idea of capturing clouds, the chapter addresses social and political implications of the increasingly ubiquitous technology of cloud computing. What and how do data clouds capture? Are these clouds themselves captured both in physical infrastructure, ownership, state conduct and through artistic responses to their inherent dynamics? Following Amoore’s distinction between two different geographies of data clouds, the chapter addresses issues of territoriality, power and digital borders by asking where the capturing clouds behind the US National Security Agency (NSA) bulk surveillance materialise, and where such clouds fundamentally challenge spatial notions of state sovereignty and borders. Through an analysis of the artworks of the US photographer and activist Trevor Paglen that visualise the materiality of NSA surveillance, the chapter shows that Paglen reconnects the apparently fluid and ephemeral nature of digital technology and surveillance with its often classified material and institutional basis.
Border images and narratives: paradoxes, spheres, aesthetics
Johan Schimanski and Jopi Nyman
This chapter written by the editors examines how the individual contributions to this volume answer the book’s three basic questions about different aesthetic strategies, how they enable crossings from private experience into the public sphere, and the various paradoxes they involve. The ways in which they answer these questions connect the different chapters with each other. Here the editors also suggest possible ways forward for future research, or themes that need a closer focus. It is argued that, in addition to the need to broaden the focus to other forms of aesthetic experience than those prototypically characterised as ‘images’ and ‘narratives’, it is crucial to examine in more detail how border images and narratives act in the world, focus on the temporalities of such images and narratives, and also explore their emotional dimensions.
Ethnic minorities and localities in China’s border encounters with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam
Victor Konrad and Zhiding Hu
This chapter focuses on China’s encounters and negotiations across its borders with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam where cross-border interaction and enhanced mobility play an increasingly more important role. It shows how narratives and imaginaries of border crossings and processes contribute to border negotiation in the public sphere, and, particularly, how these aesthetic forms deliver a range of top-down and bottom-up discourses among national interests and a richly intertwined tapestry of minorities in the region. On the basis of field research in the localities of Ruili, Kokang and Dalou/Mongla along the China–Myanmar border, the China–Laos border at Mohan/Boten and the China–Myanmar border at Hekou, it is shown how images and narratives of borders and borderlands function differently at different levels of discourse in the public sphere, but also that border space allows these diverse discourses to co-exist, particularly if the border space accommodates plural cultural memories. Making visible and giving voice through border images and narratives empowers minority constituencies, as long as the local images and narratives do not eclipse the national discourse. The border functions as a catalyst for mediating and merging of various border narratives as well as negotiations in the border space.
The invisibility of border-related trauma narratives in the Finnish–Russian borderlands
This chapter addresses the concept of in/visibility in border-related trauma narratives through a discussion of the representation and reception of border crossers’ traumas in literature dealing with Finnish–Russian borderlands in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by writers including Boris Cederholm, Kirsti Huurre, Arvi Perttu (Finland), Nikolai Jaakkola and Antti Timonen (Karelia, Soviet Union). The chapter reveals how historical and political discourses related to border crossers and their experiences have influenced the discourses on migrants and their traumatic experiences up to the current day. The public reception of these narratives both in Finland and the Soviet Union/Russia has tended to evaluate them according to their truth-value and documentary value, and ignored the affective and emotional aspects of the narratives, i.e., their role as trauma literature. More recent trauma narratives by border-crossers apply elements of fictional genres, such as Russian postmodernism and grotesque, and are increasingly intertextual and layered. Since affects, personal experiences and inner reflections play a central role in these texts, aesthetic strategies play an important role in mediating the trauma of the border. The chapter shows that the marginalised experience of the border trauma gains gradual visibility, and the public perception of the past is gradually transforming.
This chapter examines the aesthetics of the border by focusing on spatial border figures in situations where the sense of borders as constructs that articulate spatial frames and generate an impression of realism fails to provide this function. By analysing a set of twentieth-century fantastic narratives written in Spanish, French and English that mediate between realities and imaginaries in their treatment of borders, it examines their discourse of boundaries ontologically, narratologically and thematically. What is of particular interest is the function of two specific tropes that transgress the ‘realistic’ system of boundaries, operating according to the physics and logics of our extratextual world: horizontal vertigo – the loss of the border that puts an end to a physical space – and spatial psychasthenia – fusion of the body in space. Through analyses of fantastic texts by J.G. Ballard, Rosa Chacel and the TV episode ‘El asfalto’ from the classic Spanish series Historias para no dormir, the chapter shows the relevance of the fantastic for understanding of these border figures as well as border narratives and the configuration of human spatiality more generally.
Young people, subjectivity and revolutionary border imaginations in the Mediterranean borderscape
The chapter examines the spectacularisation of Mediterranean borderscapes evident in the dramatic staging of refugee crises and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean in the media in particular. On the basis of the work of the philosopher Hannah Arendt, this spectacularisation is understood as a part of a ‘politics of in/visibility’ that frames political subjects as either relevant or negligible through processes of making in/visible at the shifting threshold between what is worthy of being seen and what is not, which is evidenced in the limited public visibility and agency of migrants and refugees, as well as of civil society, groups and individuals inhabiting Mediterranean borderscapes. On the basis of collaborative ethnographic research with young people in the Italian/Tunisian borderland addressing their images and narratives of borders, the chapter presents a borderscaping approach aiming to de-spectacularise images and narratives of Mediterranean borderscapes. It shows how mixed collaborative visual methods enable possible ‘tactics’ for negotiating regimes of in/visibility to restore public visibility agency that will allow for new forms of political participation and subjectivity. In this way, Mediterranean borderscapes emerge as a space of political becoming where new forms of performative political participation can be developed.
This introduction addresses the role of the aesthetic forms such as narratives and images for politics of the border on the basis of the work of the philosopher Jacques Rancière. It also suggests that stories of the border are means for negotiating identity in the borderscape, the site where border-crossings and bordering processes take place, generating new belongings and becomings, as the border theorist Chiara Brambilla argues. Providing a shared basis for the interdisciplinary volume, the introduction asks three key questions that concern (1) the role of the form, medium, aesthetical strategies in (trans)forming the borderscape, (2) their entry into the public sphere and diverse functions in border discourses and (3) their role in making visible and giving voice to diverse experiences of the borderscape, including those of migrants and other minorities. The introduction also reviews the case studies collected in the volume.
Testimonies of survival and rescue at Europe’s border
Karina Horsti and Ilaria Tucci
The chapter addresses the much-publicised disaster that occurred in the proximity of the island of Lampedusa, Italy, in October 2013, leading to the death of hundreds of mainly Eritrean migrants at sea. In addition to discussing responses to the disasters, the chapter counters established ways of reporting such disasters where fatality metrics and distantiation are dominant modes of representation. The authors argue for more ethical and reciprocal ways for research, where emphasis is on testimonies and narratives, especially by those who have witnessed the incident at first hand. The acts of telling and listening emerge as ways for foregrounding the human aspects of the disaster and produce more balanced and horizontal relationships between researchers and interviewees. The two testimonies, ‘performances of a story’, by an Eritrean survivor and an Italian rescuer, presented as parts of memory workshops and providing individual responses to the event by first-hand witnesses, show that narratives and images play a role in transforming the borderscape and despectacularising migration and disasters.
This chapter contributes to key debates in border ontology and border anthropology through a critical re-evaluation of the work of the social theorist Georg Simmel. Through a theoretical discussion and an analysis of several border images and narratives, it argues that life at the border always involves a need to negotiate between the territorial, cultural and linguistic demands of the different spaces, revealing the instability and ambivalence of liminality. In an attempt to explore the potentiality of the theoretical frame for the study of border narratives and images, the chapter investigates various border figurations associated with limits and thresholds, often marked symbolically as bridges, staircases, windows and doors, which are part of an aesthetics of the border. The final section of the chapter addresses the film Babel (2006) directed by the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. It suggests that the multi-locational and multicultural elements of the film, seen in its locations ranging from Japan, the United States and Mexico testify to global cultural entanglements and the potentiality for border-crossings embedded in globalisation, but are challenged by the closed space of the tourist bus prohibiting communication between international tourists and the space travelled through.
Borders and images in migration narratives published in Norwegian
This chapter brings together the concerns of border aesthetics and ‘post-national’ imagology. Setting out to map images of Northernness in contemporary migrant literature that features viewpoints originating from the global ‘South’, it discusses the border processes implied by stereotypical images of the other and of the self. It addresses a number of fictional or autobiographical public narratives written in Norwegian by migrants arriving in Norway as children or young adults, including testimonial narratives by the child refugee Amal Aden and ‘illegal’ migrant Maria Amelie, along with semi-autobiographical novels by Romeo Gill and Sara Azmeh Rasmussen. Migrant narratives negotiate discourses of arcticity, winterliness, nordicity etc., known from imagological research on Northernness. The chapter asks to what degree various topoi of Northernness contribute to the bordering processes in the texts, or whether these narratives produce new images of Northernness and new vocabularies for addressing the border-crossing. The narratives deploy chiastic switchings between North and South, circling disorientations, entropic white-outs and liberating and destructive verticalities in order to figure the border in new ways at different points of their physical and symbolic journeys. The ambivalence of these images shows that they are related not merely to borders but also to the epistemological borders negotiated.