Making Sense of Borderscapes: Space, Imagination and Experience

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Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in the ‘borderscapes’ concept in border studies and cognate fields. However, there is a lack of dialogue amongst the proliferating case studies that have adopted the borderscapes concept. Arguably, the
  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Geopolitics ISSN: 1465-0045 (Print) 1557-3028 (Online) Journal homepage: Making Sense of Borderscapes: Space, Imaginationand Experience Dina Krichker To cite this article:  Dina Krichker (2019): Making Sense of Borderscapes: Space, Imagination andExperience, Geopolitics, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2019.1683542 To link to this article: Published online: 30 Oct 2019.Submit your article to this journal View related articles View Crossmark data  Making Sense of Borderscapes: Space, Imagination andExperience Dina Krichker Department of Geography, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore, Singapore ABSTRACT Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in the  ‘ bor-derscapes ’  concept in border studies and cognate fields.However, there is a lack of dialogue amongst the proliferatingcase studies that have adopted the borderscapes concept.Arguably, the theoretical and methodological vagueness of the concept renders it highly appropriable. Yet, articulation of the existing patterns and common conceptual apparatus arenecessary for theoretical development and clarity. This paperexamines a range of analytical and methodological applica-tions of the concept for their practical implications in humangeography by studying the institutionalisation of violence inMelilla  –  a small Spanish enclave in North Africa. It argues thatrevisiting Lefebvre ’ s theory on the  ‘ production of space ’  maybe useful for approaching the production of borderscapesthrough social practices and discursive tools. By examiningthe place and importance of imagination and experience inconflict situations in this border town, this paper clarifies howthe borderscapes concept can be operationalised for analyticaland methodological use in bottom-up border research. Indoing so, this paper encourages a sustained dialogue betweenthese diverse case studies by challenging the practical applica-tion of the borderscapes logic in field research and dataanalysis. Introduction The concept of   ‘ borderscape ’  seems to oweitsappeal toitsvagueness. Given thatscholars still have not arrived at a common understanding of the term  ‘ border ’ (Novak 2018),thedefinitionofamorerecentconceptof  ‘ borderscape ’ alsoraisesquestions due to the absence of a single interpretation of the term (dell ’ Agneseand Amilhat Szary  2015). Still, the last 5 years have witnessed the growinginterest in the concept. New studies titled with  ‘ borderscape ’  are seen on thepages of   ‘ Geopolitics ’ ,  ‘ Political Geography  ’ , and other human geography jour-nals. Emerging  ‘ borderscape ’  studies deal with a variety of divergent topics withtheir own distinct interpretation of the concept. In this way, the  ‘ borderscape ’ CONTACT  Dina Krichker Department of Geography, National University of Singapore (NUS), 1 Arts Link, Block AS2 #04-01, Singapore 117570, SingaporeColor versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at GEOPOLITICS © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC  materialises through artistic practices (Pötzsh 2015; Schimanski 2015), everyday  life in the border areas (Giels and van Houtum 2012; Strüver 2018), externalisa- tion (Brambilla 2014; Watkins 2017) or internalisation (Mezzadra and Neilson 2011) of the security border infrastructure, historical legacy (Cassidy, Yuval-Davis, and Wemyss 2018), performativity (Pellander and Horsti 2018) and territoriality of transit spaces (Ferrer-Gallardo and Albet-Mas 2013; Tsoni2016). The variety of problematics that are encompassed by   ‘ borderscape ’ combined with the lack of communication among this diversity of case studiespoints towards what I call here, the  ‘ irresistible vagueness ’  oftheconcept.On theonehand,this ‘ irresistiblevagueness ’ respondstotheneedsofthediscipline.The ‘ processual shift ’  (Brambilla 2015) led the border studies away from the ideas of  ‘ borderless ’  globalised world (Tuathail 1999) towards appreciation of continuedrelevance of the borders in political geography and everyday life in the border-lands. The need to re-think and re-evaluate the role and place of borders in therapidly changing technological and political environment of the twenty-firstcenturyisaddressedintheideasof  ‘ borderscape ’ ,asafluid,mobile,openzoneof differentiated encounters  –  a border zone without borders. On the other hand,the  ‘ irresistible vagueness ’  poses serious challenges for further conceptual devel-opments within the field of border studies. When charting an agenda for borderstudies, Sidaway (2011) argued that the discipline does not need more borderstudies, i.e. case studies on different causes and effects of bordering, but rather “ we need to think how a variety of bordering illustrates changing configurationsof the social and political ”  (Sidaway  2011, 974). Analytical and methodologicalclarity is necessary to draw effective conclusions about the futures of space,territory, and sovereignty, and to account for the multiplicity of border zonesand bordering dynamics. However, this has yet to be achieved with the conceptof   ‘ borderscapes ’ .Still, among the rapidly multiplying concepts that claim to grasp thecontemporary condition of the international borders (Konrad 2015; Nail2016; Walker and Winton 2017),  ‘ borderscapes ’  appears as the most promi-nent. There are several good reasons for this. Firstly, the social nature of theborders is celebrated within the concept (Paasi 1998, 1999). By divorcing from the idea that borders are necessarily material markers of separation inspace, borderscape embraces the multiplicity of social interactions and navi-gates them with the dynamics of   “ othering ”  (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr2007) and  “ distancing ”  (Schimanski 2015). Secondly, by focusing on thesocial interactions around the border, the material and institutional infra-structure of the bordering process is not discarded (Ferrer-Gallardo, Albet-Mas, and Espiñeira 2015). Finally, unbounded spatiality of borderscapes givesroom to imagination and further development of our understanding of multiple bordering practices in a rapidly changing world. This is why I argue for an operationalisation of the  ‘ borderscape ’  concept througha more nuanced treatment of the mechanisms of its construction. 2 D. KRICHKER  “ Borderscapes ”  prominently entered border studies with the edited book by Rajaram and Grundy-Warr (2007). In the introduction, the authors noted, “ Levfebre ’ s notions of space are relevant to our thinking about landscapesand borderscapes, particularly as these conceptions hold out possibilities forcounter-hegemonic spatial and non-spatial practices together with alternativeways of visualising space and society  ”  (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2007,xxiv). Hence, in order to understand how the borderscapes come about inspatial discourse, Lefebvrian theory has to be revisited. I found that thenotions of space, imagination and experience are present in different formsin every piece of the borderscape literature, whether it treats artistic practicesin the border zone (Nyman 2019), processes of everyday identity negotiation(Hartung 2018), or externalisation of the bordering practices (Celata andColetti 2019). The understanding of space, imagination and experience hereis drawn from Lefebvre ’ s  “ Production of space ”  (1991), and I elaborate on itin much detail in the following sections. I suggest looking at how these threeconcepts interact in the production of borderscape and argue that a morerobust analysis of the mechanisms of the borderscape construction may operationalise the methodological and analytical application of the termand set a dialogue between divergent pieces of borderscapes research.Therefore, this intervention is an attempt to bring order into the growingbody of the borderscape research, and to start a theoretical conversation onthe conceptual development of the term.This paper draws its empirical material from the ethnographic research inthe Spanish-Moroccan borderscape in Melilla conducted in June – July 2016and August – December 2017 as an empirical basis for an illustration of theanalytical suggestions introduced below. Throughout my fieldwork, over 70semi-structured interviews with border guards, migrants, smugglers and localdwellers were conducted. They were mainly focused on their everyday inter-actions with the border and experiences of bordering infrastructure in itsmaterial and discursive senses. Melilla is a 12 square kilometres Spanishenclave in North Africa that borders the Moroccan province of Nador.With Spain joining the European Union in 1986, Melilla became the south-ernmost European land border. In the last couple of decades, Melilla hasbeen attracting numerous flows of migrants from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, seeking asylum, improvement of the life conditions ora better job in Europe. This led to the emergence of a massive security infrastructure: Melilla is surrounded by triple metallic fence, equipped withcameras, heat sensors and advanced system of radars. Morocco actively collaborates with the Spanish authorities to manage the irregular migrationto the enclave. Not only Moroccan auxiliaries patrol the Melillan border,even though the city is not recognised as Spanish by Moroccan government(Ferrer-Gallardo 2007), they also periodically burn down the migrant camp-sites in the forest on the Moroccan side of the border (Sánchez and Martin GEOPOLITICS 3  2016). In this way, the Spanish-Moroccan borderscape extends beyond theofficially demarcated separation line. Hence, the role of space, experience andimagination in the production of the Spanish-Moroccan borderscape isanalysed.This paper starts by examiningthe evolution of the  ‘ borderscape ’  conceptandanalysing its application in the recent studies published in Geopolitics, PoliticalGeography and a few other human geography journals. Then, the way space,imagination and experience may open new perspectives on the processes of theborderscape construction is elaborated. After that, an illustration of how space,imagination and experience produce Melillan borderscape through local narra-tives is provided. I conclude by outlining the application of the suggested modeland charting the agenda for future research. Borderscapes: The Becoming of the Term and ContemporaryApproaches According to dell ’ Agnese and Amilhat Szary (2015), there has been at least three co-existing definitions of the term borderscape since it first appeared. The firstone stems from Appadurai ’ s (1996) usage of the suffix  ‘ -scapes ’ . In order totheorise the nature of the global cultural flows in the era of globalisation,Appaduarai introduced ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapesand ideoscapes as material and discursive shifting landscapes of flows, interac-tions and mobilities, connected with the essence of global capitalism. In thiscontext, borderscape appears as  “ an area, shaped and reshaped by transnationalflows, that goes beyond the modernist idea of clear-cut national territories ” (dell ’ Agnese and Amilhat Szary  2015, 5). The second definition is drawn fromHarbers (2003) understanding of borderscape as  “ the material output of thedifference in sovereignty marked by the international boundary  ”  (dell ’ Agneseand Amilhat Szary  2015, 6). The third definition is borrowed from Dolff-Bonekämper and Kuipers (2004) understanding that is very close to the ideaof   ‘ borderland ’ :  “ a portion of land surface influenced by the presence of inter-national boundary  ”  (dell ’ Agnese and Amilhat Szary  2015, 6). While the lattercan be used interchangeably with the term  ‘ borderland ’ , and the second defini-tion is limited by the notions of   ‘ materiality  ’  and  ‘ sovereignity  ’  incorporatedwithin it, the first one is probably the closest to the contemporary usage of theterm. Still, even the fact that the  ‘ borderscape ’  is considered as an area may seemtoo restrictive to some scholars. Thus, Scott et al. (2018, 175) suggest thatborderscapes are  “ social/political panoramas that emerge around border con-texts and that connect the realm of high politics with that of communities andindividuals who are affected by <  …  > borders. ”  Rajaram and Grundy-Warr(2007, xxx) argue that  “ borderscape is <  …  > a zone of varied and differentiatedencounters.It isneither enveloped bythe statenorsemantically exhaustible.Theborderscape is a zone of competing and even contradictory emplacements and 4 D. KRICHKER
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