Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis

Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis

Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis

Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis

Synopsis

Tracing and theorizing the concept of the boundaries through literary works, visual objects and cultural phenomena, this book argues against the reification of boundaries as fixed and empty non-spaces that simply divide the world. Expanding on her previous work on gender and Orientalism, Inge Boer takes us into uncertain territories of fashion and art, tourism and travel, skilfully engaging the ambivalence of boundaries, as both protecting and confining, as bringing distinction while existing by virtue of their ability to be transgressed. In her close readings of that boundaries as desert, as frame, as home (or lack of it), Boer shows that boundaries are spaces within, through, and in the name of which negotiations take place. They are not lines but spaces; neither fixed nor empty but flexible and inhabited.

Excerpt

This book can be thought of as a trace. Or rather, as a series of traces, perhaps a palimpsest. the word trace is used here in the Derridean sense of a projection forward as much as a material memory of the past. It represents the intellectual legacy of a scholar so generous and stimulating that what she left behind can be said to have inaugurated the future of her work. This book exemplifies and celebrates this open, forward-looking quality of her work by means of the responses written by her close friends and students.

When Inge Boer died on May 19, 2004, her computer files were brimming with life – as she had always been. Her edited volume After Orientalism appeared a few days before her passing. Her monograph Disorienting Vision appeared posthumously. When we went through her archive to prepare the latter book for publication, we discovered numerous articles, and a book project. the book was to be devoted to boundaries. the papers she wished to rework and include were there. the editing had been cut short by her illness and untimely death. But the vitality of the papers was there, eager to be released into the open.

Critical of current trends to dismiss local cultures in favour of a multicultural globalized view, Inge chose in her final years to study the borders and boundaries that divide the world. She argued against the reification of boundaries as fixed and empty non-spaces whose sole purpose would be to install and uphold divisions. Instead, she contended that boundaries are spaces within, through, and in the name of which negotiations can take place. Understood this way, boundaries need not be the focus of hostility they often are but, instead, may serve the indispensable function of helping people engage and manage an otherwise chaotic world. They are not lines but spaces; neither fixed nor empty but flexible and inhabited.

The first part of the book, The Function of Boundaries, comprises chapters in which the notion of boundary is thoroughly explored. in the close readings that constitute this part, either the home, or the lack of it, figures centrally. Thereafter, the writing moves out into a world riddled with boundaries erected for reasons good or bad, but that, in the end, are only productive if taken as loosening, opening up, and yielding to interaction and negotiation.

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