Pol02
Imagining and creating walls, utopias, and co-fragile formations
Convenors:
Teruko Mitsuhara (University of California, Los Angeles)
Matthew McCoy (Anthropology)
Stream:
Politics
Format:
Location:
All Souls Wharton Room
Start time:
19 September, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

This panel examines the ways in which societies, communities, and individuals come to form fragile barriers and estrangements between themselves and others. We ask, in what ways do people imagine, contest, and normalize the creation and maintenance of divisions?

Long abstract:

The wall has again become the dominant trope in current discourses and imaginaries. For some, walls signify the potential for utopia and for others, the wall serves as protection against those beyond. Accordingly, this panel examines the ways in which societies, communities, and individuals come to form fragile barriers and estrangements between themselves and others. Recently, Wendy Brown (2010) has argued that during periods of waning State sovereignty, walls "produce not the future of an illusion, but the illusion of a future aligned with an idealized past." We want to open a space for ethnography to address the varieties of practices, interactions, narratives, ideologies, and subjectivities emerging in such spaces. We are, however, aware that walled spaces or enclosures within the contemporary global context are what Peter Sloterdijk calls, intertwined "co-fragile systems." Using the metaphor of "foam," Sloterdijk conceptualizes society "as an aggregate of microspheres (couples, households, businesses, associations) [...which] are layered over and under one another, yet without truly being accessible or effectively separable from one another" (2016). In this way, we can see communities as precariously layered by multiple and porous enclosures. We encourage panelists to explore their ethnographic data on segregated or enclosed communities to address the role of participants' (co-)constructed imaginaries in constituting barriers. These barriers may take form in border regions, religious enclaves, ghettos, intentional communities, gated neighborhoods, and other spaces. In short, we ask, in what ways do people imagine, contest, and normalize the creation and maintenance of divisions?