bordertoySlowly the form of our meeting in Berlin has been taking shape, via disparate (and desperate?) emails, haphazardly. That will no doubt continue, but I think it good to gather it together here (in dialogic form):

John: I’ve no idea yet as to just what the Berlin workshop should be in April (week of 20th) – I just think we might want something on how the whole performance of Borders, or the Border Crossing, might make possible new thinking around immigration politics, border controls, divisions and divides etc.

What I am keen to do is extend from the discussions we had in the November meeting that raised issues around how people rethink the border when it comes to sound and through musicking, collaborative work, festivals and solidarity. And how the character of sound crosses the border differently perhaps – the metaphor of the sonic which moves us away from a visual and geographic conception of the Border. Is there something in the theatrical that tampers with border protocols that we can develop? Is the ‘live’ of theatre of use for thinking border as event? Is there something about the performance of the guard, the applicant, the visa, the passage. And that the border is performed everywhere, all the time, in the street, in the gaps we act out between each other? In the courthouse? In the detention centre? Or maybe either more esoteric, or more material – is the border a stage, or ‘in the round’? Are there actors, directors, a troupe – is it a puppet show? Is the border equipped with a back stage, house lights, curtains, inner circle and  ‘the gods’ – what is its architecture? Is it opera, Brecht, or vaudeville? Is a rose by any other name a border control? or… Something like this/anyone?

Rustom: Many thanks for your very insightful comments relating to the border.  Flogged to death as it is in a great deal of performance studies and cultural theory, it still continues to provoke and challenge.  Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I guess it is the porosity of borders that is called into question, raising uncomfortable questions relating to surveillance.  India seems to be caught in a double bind:  on the one hand, it’s obvious that our existing mechanisms of surveillance are woefully weak and overly bureacuratized; on the other hand, in strenghening them, what are the implications for minorities and those migrants without papers who can be easily targeted?

Markus: As you know, here in Berlin we have a long tradition of thinking about crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders. There sure are quite a number of theoretical approaches that deal with the problem of border-crossing within the arts and humanities and it seems to me that the
next step would be to reimplement these ideas back into cultural and political theory.

Why not give each day a different topic, held together by the overall theme of body, theatricality and performativity in regards to bordercrossing or the blurring of borders? In this case it could very well focus especially on bodily borders, right? The political, social and phenomenological integrity and dignity of borders (or boundaries) between bodies perhaps? Combined with the old psychoanalytical question if there is such a thing as a coherent body with distinct borders in the first place, there should be many interesting opportunities for thinking about surveillance and counter surveillance for example. Or the notion of “staging violence” in the media. Just my quick two cents.

John: You had asked what the Clandestino people are doing. Their project for Berlin is derived from work on a play they are doing about the Detention Centre. Its due for performance in December 09 but the text will be ready (only in Swedish) in Feb. We will try to have it translated before April. This started because I said I would like to really push the Detention Centre as border idea. I’ve written on barbed wire before – its a border that really cuts into the body. A harsh theatre is required for this:

So Aleksander and Johannes have written a play, “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)? It will be performed at Göteborgs Stadsteater with premiere December 2009. They say they ‘think it is very good starting point for a discussion on the complexity of border surveillance seen from an inside the border control perspective, what happens with language of emotions in the context where the “not quite criminals”, those people who have been taken into “custody”, been placed in the “detention centre”, not beeing criminals for something that they have comitted but for a border they have transgressed. This is what me and Johannes have been working out in “Förvaret”.

Aleksander says: ‘I think my other colleagues Michal Azar (philosopher (Fanon, Lacan, Sartre, Camus, postmodern thinkers)/historian of ideas (war of Algeria)/play writer) and/or Edda Manga (philosopher (feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism)/historian of ideas (the Idea of a Just war from Victoria/bartolome de las Casas, etc)/activist, . . . ) would be great to bring since they are very much of intellectuals that can “reimplement the ideas crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders back into cultural and political theory”. Also Cecilia Parsberg, artist that did many projects in on the Wall in Palestine’.

John: unfortunately we don’t have funds to invite other visitors, but if people could make their way to Berlin…

Things to discuss:
Format – ideally not too much lecture format. Lets experiment with formats. Panel discussion, round table, theatrical metaphor for seminars?

Text – three days, three themes related to Border performance. One on bodily Border. Another on Surveillance (of bodies, borders, nation states). Another one ___ detentions?

Participants: several of the PhDs have suggested good things. I will ask them to write up a paragraph for their presentations. Especially good ideas from Jen, Ray, Cristobal and Nick. So, more to come here, but at least we have a start. Comments welcome.

The main border page, with the back story to this event, is here.

[The picture is from Emile’s wish list on Amazon. Check here and read the comments].

snowed out

img_1013I have always been more amazed that London cannot cope with mildly warm temperatures like 30 Celsius, than I am that everything stops also for snow. Mind you, it is a lot of snow I reckon, and well cold, so I am only going outside to build a snowperson, and to join the occasional impromptu snowball fight that happens on my street when pedestrians venture by. College, bless em, shut up shop at the first sign of weather. As this letter attests [editorial comments mine]:

2 February 2009
Due to today’s poor [no, fantastic!] weather conditions and the lack of
public transport, it has been decided that Goldsmiths, University of
London will be closed on health and safety grounds and all classes
will be cancelled for today [in favour of toboggan races on the back field].
The College should be open as usual, tomorrow [damn], Tuesday 3 February but
any updates to this will be posted on
We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause you [enjoy it while you can!].
Hugh Jones
Registrar and Secretary