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’s Borderlands/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. 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.