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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Architecture and Culture

For a Special Issue on
Border Fictions

Manuscript deadline
30 July 2022

Cover image - Architecture and Culture

Special Issue Editor(s)

Dr Paula McCloskey, a place of their own / School of Art, University of Derby
[email protected]

Dr Sam Vardy, a place of their own / Department of Architecture, Munster Technological University & Cork Centre for Architectural Education
[email protected]

Nat Muller, independent curator, writer and academic
[email protected]

Dr Mohamad Hafeda, Leeds School of Architecture, Leeds Beckett University
[email protected]

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Border Fictions

"…in traumatic times like ours, when reality itself is so distorted as to have become impossible and abnormal, it is the function of all culture, partaking of this abnormality, to be aware of its own sickness. To be aware of the unreality or inauthenticity of the so-called real, is to reinterpret this reality. To reinterpret this reality is to commit oneself to a constant revolutionary assault against it.”

(Wynter 2019, p.129)

Across art, border studies and critical spatial practices, there are long histories of resistances that employ transformational power and the production of alternate imaginaries towards re-making the lived realities and unrealities of borders and that which they define. For this special issue of Architecture and Culture, we build upon the work of the independent art + spatial research practice, a place of their own [https://aplaceoftheirown.org/] to propose a critical, politicised, and transdisciplinary exploration of the histories, narratives, spaces, potentials and futures of fictioning as such a resistant practice at the border. We are interested in the potential of asking how fictioning can be brought into relation with borders and "borderscapes" (Brambilla 2015, p.18) while resisting and critiquing attempts at “beautifying the violence of the border” (Keshavarz & Khosravi 2020) that have emerged in recent discourses and debates.

The borders addressed in this call are those of sovereign territories, or those created by settler colonialism, across the world. Borders are the spatial and lived realities of what Harsha Walia (2013, p.3) refers to as “border imperialism” - the displacement of peoples and the securitisation if not criminalisation of immigration and immigrants in relation to a growing prison industrial complex, the racialised hierarchy of citizenship, and the state-mediated exploitation of migrant labour that benefits transnational capitalism. In many contexts, particularly colonial ones, borders can also often be viewed as fictions themselves but also have real and severe consequences for those on whom they are imposed including speculative design as a colonial tactic of exploitation operating through political, embodied, architectural, visual, cartographic and other spatial means.

Border fictioning, and the broader instances of building alternative imaginaries of the border that we hope to compile in the issue, are formulated within a lineage of specific spatial, geographic, political and art based thinking and practices.

In Undoing Border Imperialism (2013, p.2) and Border and Rule (2021) Harsha Walia performs an activist and theoretical undoing of “the physical borders that enforce a global system of apartheid and… the conceptual borders that keep us separated from one another.” Through these practices of undoing, the ways in which borders are mapped, (re)known and (re)made by the humans and non-humans that they most affect are made visible, thereby emerging as a very different anti-colonial, resistant form of speculative design.

Gloria Anzaldúa’s (1987) Borderlands: La Frontera introduces mestiza consciousness - through which Anzaldúa uses myth-making and other strategies to contest the hegemonic border imaginary to create new epistemologies rooted in language, culture, memory, and history. “By creating a new mythos - that is, a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave - la mestiza creates a new consciousness.” (Anzaldúa 1987, p.80)

Fictioning in art and cultural practice is by no means novel. It is the core of science fiction and new imaginaries created as a form of resistant art practice. It is present in the production of Afro- and other futurisms and within queer-feminist strategies. As an ontology and method within contemporary art, Burrows and O’Sullivan (2019), in their work on mythopoesis, explore the potential of fiction as a verb; as a practice that might disrupt and impact on the real. Delphi Carstens and Mer Roberts (2017, p.206-207) of the collective Orphan Drift, further suggest that “[d]espite the scenario in which even language and artistic expression are complicit with the totalizing aesthetic of spectacle, fiction is productively wielded in acts of negation and inversion that make radical demands on the imagination, creativity, and desire.”

We are interested here in the way critical and spatial art practices can generate alternative border imaginaries via critiques of colonial, patriarchal and capitalist territoriality. We are inspired by the art practice of Ana Mendieta’s Siluetta Series (1973-1978); Zach Blass’ Facial Weaponization Suite (2011-2014); Electronic Disturbance Theatre’s Transborder Immigrant Tool (2007-ongoing); and Larissa Sansour’s Nation State (2012) and In Vitro (2019), Karmadavis’ El Vecino (The Neighbour, (2016), Otobong Nkanga’s Baggage (2007-08) and the performing borders platform (https://performingborders.live). The contemporary research of Nishat Awan's Topological Atlas also works with material and affective qualities in the production of visual counter-geographies of borders understood as topological entities through the experience of the undocumented (https://topologicalatlas.net).

The call asks the following:

  • What becomes of fictioning as a resistant spatial practice when it engages with nation-state borders?
  • How can activist, anti-colonial, critical spatial art practices open new imaginaries of borders while acknowledging the often violent lived experiences that they impose?
  • Is there political potential in exploring expanded framings of various and opposing forms of ‘speculative design’ - from the making to the unmaking of borders?

Taking a broad and interdisciplinary approach for this Special Issue we hope to solicit experiences from:

  • Contemporary global spatial art and/or architecture practices working with fictions in border contexts, however they might be defined;
  • Contemporary spatial activist initiatives working with fictions in border contexts, however they might be defined;
  • Historical and counter-historical narratives that reimagine or re-narrate border experiences.

The ambition of this project is that it might collectively evolve critical new insights into political, spatial and cultural experiences of borders in order to “provide them with another meaning. That of a passage, a communication—a relation.” (Glissant, 2009; cited by Herscher & León, 2020).

Submission Instructions

We invite contributors to engage with these and other themes, thinking about their current and future spatial and architectural implications from a variety of disciplines including architecture, urbanism, literature, the arts and film, anthropology, sociology, philosophy and geography. We welcome contributions across all expressive media. This may involve standard academic papers or take more creative approaches, such as poetry, short story, drama, film, graphic cartoon, or indeed visualisation through new regional cartographies. To this end contributions may be linked to digital sound recordings, videos or other interactive forms of media. The maximum length for a submission is 8,000 words, including notes and references, and the maximum number of images to appear in print form is 8.

Please select 'Border Fictions’ when submitting your paper to Editorial Manager. Those submissions that are selected to be taken further will be anonymously peer reviewed. Our editorial practice aims to be constructively critical, respecting an author’s voice and position while working to tune submissions to the highest level of quality and readability.

Expected publication date: Winter 2023/ early 2024.

Guest Editors:

Dr Paula McCloskey (a place of their own / School of Art, University of Derby)

Dr Sam Vardy (a place of their own / School of Architecture, Sheffield Hallam University)

Nat Muller (independent curator, writer and academic)

Dr Mohamad Hafeda (Leeds School of Architecture, Leeds Beckett University)

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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