full name / name of organization:
University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies
Transnational Cinemas, an Intellect journal, is accepting articles, interviews and visual essays for a special issue entitled “Walls and fortresses: borderscapes and archipelagos of exception in the cinematic imaginary”, to be published in November 2015.
In tandem with a postnational imaginary nurtured by an ever-present promise of deterritorialized mobility and burgeoning migratory fluxes, walls and fences separating nation-states multiply across the European and American continents. Through a comparative frame, this special issue will focus on the interrelated motifs of borderscapes and archipelagos of exception, across the USA, Americas and Europe, as they are represented in cinematic narratives. The essays to be selected will critically examine the cultural implications of crossing national borders (such as walls, barriers and fences) and of being in transit or “in orbit” in archipelagos of exception (such as refugee camps and detention centers next to national borders and “zones d’attentes” and holding cells of airports).
The narrative of the Security State interconnects with the securitization of borders and the edification of archipelagos of exception, the latter which Eyal Weizman describes as “a multiplicity of discrete extraterritorial zones, the spatial expression of a series of ‘states of emergency’, or states of exception that are either created through the process of law or that appear de facto within them” (2007: 13). As such, this special issue departs from the need to critically enquire into the fact that, in order to justify the securitization of national and pan-national fortresses and the existence of spaces of exception, the border must continuously be performed by both border crossers – the “unwanted aliens” – and those who secure borders – the “petty sovereigns” in Judith Butler’s description (2004: 65) or the “(in)security professionals” in Didier Bigo’s formulation (2007: 16).
Even though nation-states at the centre of the “global order” increasingly present themselves as postnational, calls for tighter border security (prompted by traumatic events such as the London Underground bombings, the riots in Paris’s “banlieues” and the September 11 attacks) undermine utopian notions of both a postnational New Europe and the USA as the Promised Land. Instead, these notions are replaced by those of Fortress Europe and “el Norte”, the latter influentially represented in Gregory Nava’s eponymous 1983 film. The walls and fences between the US and Mexico constitute the paradigm of the embattled frontier between the North and the South, an obstacle to those who wish to cross to the Promised Land, famously described in 1987 by Gloria Anzaldúa as “una herida abierta [an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds” (2007: 25). Around Fortress Europe there are also concrete walls, barbed wire and razor blade fences, provided with electronic sensors, under constant surveillance of Frontex, the European Union agency for external border control. The refugee camps alongside the southern border of Europe, governed by a permanent state of exception due to the imperatives of national security, derive their existence from the securitization of migration and the reinforcement of technologies of surveillance and control, or from what Didier Bigo (2007) termed the banopticon (after Michel Foucault’s theory of the panopticon based on Jeremy Bentham’s design in the late eighteenth century). Interestingly for the purposes of this special issue, the US-Mexico border has been termed the “panopticon border” (Payan 2007: 113) and other parallels can be found, thus proving the interest of gathering together, in a special issue, essays on this topic. Similarly to the “migra”, the border-patrol agents working in the US-Mexico border, the guards of Frontex act as a biopolitical filter that exclude the unwanted migrants and undocumented asylum-seekers from the territorial boundaries of Europe and place them in holding camps for refugees in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, and Nicosia, divided between Turkish-occupied North Cyprus and Greek South Cyprus. Other examples abound: while the US Immigration and Naturalization Services turned Ellis Island into the quintessential deportation center until 1954, Frontex has converted the Italian island of Lampedusa into a present-day European Ellis Island.
If cinema has been instrumental to nation building processes during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it has been equally central, as a “traveling technology”, to making sense of migration, journeying and other forms of border-crossing. The fortress, border, wall and fence (physical configurations resulting from cultural reconfigurations that attempt to sustain a western hegemony in decay) have been recurrently used as topoi of the cinematic imagination. Specifically, in border cinema, border crossers increasingly tend to be undemonized and the dyads of colonialism – citizen/alien, legal/illegal – are more often than not subverted. A comparative analysis of European, North-American and South-American cinema (both feature films and documentaries) that have resorted to these topoi will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the liminality of borders (their representation and negotiation) and their impact on the identity politics of those who cross them and those who secure them.
Within the broad research area of migration, journeying and other forms of border-crossing, possible topics include (but are not limited to):
* Modes of production, distribution and exhibition
* Co-productions and collaborative networks
* New technologies and changing patterns of consumption
* Exilic and diasporic filmmaking
* Cross-fertilisation and cultural exchange
* Indigenous cinema and video and the cinemas of ethnic minorities
* Cultural policy
* Historical transnational practices
* Interrelationships between the local, national and the global
* Transnational and postcolonial politics
Please send a 500-word proposal or completed essays and a short cv by September 1st, 2012 to the guest editor:
University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies
Notification of acceptance will be sent by September 31st, 2012. Articles should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (excluding references) and should follow the Harvard referencing system. The editor will also consider the inclusion of interviews and visual essays. Essay drafts will be due by January 1st, 2014.