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Shifting Borders

17-18 March 2006
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Michele Wallace
Professor of English, City University of New York

Within the expanding field of visual culture, what meanings should we attach to the notion of ‘borders’? From Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined communities built around a greater access to popular script languages, to Homi K. Bhabha’s suggestion that opposites are empty projections in which we live “in between,” twentieth-century thinkers have proposed new frameworks for the understanding of borders. These notions have shifted the definition of borders away from static dividing lines towards dynamic populated spaces: unstable elements which are continuously renegotiated by political, economic, and cultural factors.


In North America, identity is increasingly being defined by oppositions. Labeling what a nation, group, person, or thing is not can be likened to objective self-definition. There are varied manifestations of this phenomenon – in the politics of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, from trade to cultural polices – yet an overlooked aspect of these defining oppositions is their construction of hermetic divides between their constitutive parts. These conceptual partitions can act as borders, predetermining both our visual experience of everyday reality and our cultural choices.