The Global Checkpoint: 'Rights' of Passage, Performances of Sovereignty

full name / name of organization: 
ACLA - American Comparative Literature Association Convention, 2012; David A. Fieni, Karim Mattar (seminar organizers)

This seminar will consider and develop critical approaches to the administration of space and the ritualized regulation of flows of people and goods in the contemporary world. The checkpoint, a globally ubiquitous technology that administers space within states / colonies (e.g. Apartheid South Africa, Northern Ireland, the occupied West Bank), in warzones (Afghanistan, Iraq), and between states (India-Pakistan during Partition, East-West Berlin, US-Mexico), offers a precise and suggestive focal point for this concern. It acts as a concrete embodiment of relations of power and inequality between two (or more) ethnically, religiously, or nationally distinct populations, where such relations are enacted through the ritual of crossing, and where language and translation become, as Emily Apter might have it, matters of life and death. It functions not only to control the flow of migrants, illicit goods, and insurgents / terrorists, but also to divide contiguous lands and to reproduce politically and legally encoded distinctions between 'us' and 'them'. Thus performing sovereignty, the checkpoint appears to be symptomatic of fears of catastrophe, whether economic, political, or social, in various national and global contexts.

We seek papers that theorize the checkpoint, or that attend to its representation in literature, film, and the arts. Possible topics include:

- The checkpoint and postcolonial theory, critical theory, etc.
- The ritualistic aspects of crossing; language and translation at checkpoints
- Checkpoints, barriers, walls and the performance of sovereignty, 'waning sovereignty' (Wendy Brown)
- Comparing checkpoints in different states / regions, security / border checkpoints, colonial / contemporary checkpoints, etc.
- Art and activism at checkpoints; bypassing checkpoint authority
- The checkpoint as symptom of catastrophe

***Please submit 250 word paper proposals directly on the conference website, at For more information about the seminar or the conference, please email us at the addresses listed above.