CCUSB SYMPOSIUM: Theorising the Canada-US Border
University of Kent at Paris, 15-16 May, 2015
Border theory tends to be associated with the multiple strands of mestizo/a lived experience in the Mexico-US borderlands. But how far can site-specific border theory travel, even within North America? To what extent do the insights of Mexico-US border theory—including notions of hybridity and the accommodating spaces of los intersticios in the borderlands—offer a useful theoretical framework for discussing cultural manifestations of the Canada-US border? How does the 49th parallel’s oft-proclaimed status as ‘the longest undefended border in the world,’ its particular colonial histories and neo-colonial present, its scarring of Indigenous territories, and its simultaneous division and linking of two G8 nation-states inflect the border theories of such key texts as Gloria Anzaldúa’sBorderlands/La Frontera (1987), Renato Rosaldo’s Culture and Truth (1989), Emily Hicks’s Border Writing (1991), and Héctor Calderón & José David Saldívar, Criticism in the Borderlands (1991)?
These texts cross a range of disciplinary developments, which include interventions in feminist theory, queer theory, race and ethnicity studies, and wider applications to geographical borders elsewhere in the world, as well as a “crossing” into the older borderlands studies pursued in the social sciences. That these four texts largely pertain to lived experience in the South American and Mexico-US borderlands, and that the concepts derived from them often extrapolate universal qualities from local concerns, present both a challenge and a problem. If the problem—of generalization and loose abstraction—is obvious, the challenge to scholars of border theory surely lies in rendering site-specificity to borders/borderlands, while theorizing those sites in ways that contribute generally to understandings of borderlands experience.
This two-day symposium seeks to cultivate Canada-US border theory. We invite proposals for papers that consider border theory at the 49th parallel, that theorise the border, and that explore the potential of theory to illuminate the cultural implications of the Canada-US border’s functions . Whether applying and testing border theory in its present iterations, or seeking to theorise the Canada-US border more specifically, work that considers the cultural contexts of the Canada-US border is in short supply in border theory. This symposium aims to address that deficiency by exploring the specific issues and challenges, and the potential interventions into border theory, presented by the Canada-US border/borderlands, and questions of border crossing, border culture, the ‘undefended’ border, etc.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, papers that consider any of the following in relation to the Canada-US border, as well as papers that seek to apply border theory to specific cultural texts:
• The discursive limits of border theory
• Indigenizing border theory at the Canada-US border
• Indigenous sovereignty and the politics of recognition/refusal at the border
• Theorising resistance and activism at the border
• Canada-US border metaphors
• Metaphor vs lived experience (theoretical vs. empiricist approaches)
• Application of cultural theory from other paradigms (eg. postcolonialism, regionalism, critical regionalism, etc) to the Canada-US border
• The political implications of theoretical work
• Canada-Mexico “borderlands”
• Comparative Mexico-US and Canada-US border theory
• Unsettling the nation/state