Borders separate nations from each other, they are made use of when one thing is to be demarcated from another, that is, distinguished. They have a relief-function in this regard: “As social rules for behavior they secure expectations, protect against disappointment and conflict, guarantee communication and cooperation”1.

Although territorial borders conform to the image of a line, giving it a natural and static appearance, they are flexible and based on political decisions. This also applies to social borders defined by laws, religious or ethical decree: they too are based on temporary constructions and subject to change. Fundamentally, borders are in a permanent process of dissolution and redesign, transgression and displacement. With Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari we can speak of a permanent de- and reterritorialization of borders, utilizing – as they suggest in A Thousand Plateaus – micropolitical strategies of undermining and withdrawal or resorting to becoming small and indistinguishable, with which current conditions can be dynamized and/or subverted.

Borders are sites of inclusion and exclusion, but they can also be defined as sites where different zones, orders, ideas are put in relation to each other. “By separating one from the other, the border creates one and the other, but also unites one with the other. […] The union of borders is an event, a process that manifests itself in border areas, at the thresholds, at the crossings.”2 The border becomes a “place from where the character of something unfolds”3 to expand itself as a border area. In these border areas, different fields, regions and identities are confronted, overlaid and mixed. Binary oppositions dissolve. The idea of an either-or at the border is replaced by an as-well-as. Border areas become spaces of fruitful shifting and reconstruction that can question and break up existing dichotomies, provided that they themselves remain in motion. We focus on the processes of the border at the in-between: experiences of ambivalence and hybridity, the hesitation about the various possibilities, the superimposition and interrelation of heterogeneous divisions of the sensible.

It is beyond question that the states of being in-between and in-motion often feel exhausting. The need for a limitation or enframing is therefore not reprehensible. The problem is rather the discriminating valuations and essentialist constructions that potentially go along with the creation of borders. It is these constructions that have to be constantly questioned and exceeded.

  1. Ludwig Siep, “Arten und Ursprung ethische Grenzen,” in Grenzen und Grenzüberschreitungen: XIX. Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie, Bonn, 23.–27. September 2002. Vorträge und Kolloquien, ed. Wolfram Hogrebe, Joachim Bromand (Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015), 120.
  2. Christel Baltes-Löhr, “Grenzverschiebungen. Theoriekonzepte zum Begriff ´Grenze`,” in Grenze: Sozial – Politisch – Kulturell. Ambivalenzen in den Prozessen der Entstehung und Veränderung von Grenzen, ed. Thomas Geisen und Ellen Karcher (Frankfurt am Main & London: IKO – Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation, 2003), 96.
  3. Homi K. Bhabha, Die Verortung der Kultur (Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, 2000), 7.