[SydPhil] [Philosophy at UWS seminar] 1 October - Fiona Jenkins: Imagining Vital Borders

Philosophy@UWS Philosophy at uws.edu.au
Thu Sep 18 13:26:06 AEST 2014

Philosophy at UWS presents A Research Seminar with
Fiona Jenkins<http://uws.edu.au/philosophy/philosophy@uws/events/research_seminars_2014/fiona_jenkins>
Imagining Vital Borders

DATE/TIME: Wednesday, 1 October, 3.30pm-5.00pm

PLACE: University of Western Sydney, Bankstown Campus, Building 3, Room 3.G.27  [How to get to Bankstown Campus] http://www.uws.edu.au/campuses_structure/cas/campuses/bankstown
All welcome
ABSTRACT: The idea of a border is inseparable from the imagery and narrative that maintains and adapts it to changing circumstances and demands. In one illustrative gesture of such border-constituting work, the Australian newspaper presented the coffin of an infant lost at sea as 'the defining image of the asylum-seeker debate in 2013', a claim it repeated many times, always relating the image to the 'policy failure' of which it served as the sign. The border conjured in this case functions as a kind of visual screen, blocking the relations we might otherwise be compelled to acknowledge as of common or national concern.  At the same time it marks a mode of engagement with the desire 'illegal' others have - or are pictured as having - to attain the prize that is Australia, by casting this very desire as deathly and threatening.

As is the case here, the national border of wealthy nations is most often constituted as containing and protecting the imagined terms of a stable prosperity, an idealised state of national being that is in turn mapped onto the legal status of the citizen. In this space, however, borders must in fact regularly change places as relations of desire and possession are together negotiated, policed, confirmed or undermined. Reading Casablanca (1942) and Welcome (2009) as two films exploring just that territory, the first in the context of WWII, the second in the context of the 'open borders' of the EU, I examine how the figure of the people-smuggler appears in these films as a morally complex character who moves through zones of extra-legality made prominent in the visual and narrative organisation of these films. The articulation of desire in these two films permits the asylum-seeker to be a lover and idealist, one who revitalises the political terms on which borders might be negotiated by exposing the intimate relationships of the protagonists to the extra-legal dimensions of romance, divorce, and infidelity.

A certain extra-legality is inevitable in the context of flows of people, and in the condition of a border, as a place of transit, a place of change from one status to another. Throughout the paper, I am interested in how disturbances to the constituting imagination of the 'border' might correspond with the capacity to re-generate the vitality of an exposed, desirous and thus unstable national citizenry.

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Siobhain O'Leary
Administration Coordinator, Philosophy Research Initiative
University of Western Sydney
Bankstown Campus Building 5
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith NSW 2751
+61 2 9772 6190

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