Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Primary Theme: Borders
This roundtable brings together several contributors to an edited volume that comes out of the Gender and Sexuality theme of the European network on border studies called EastBordNet. The central goal is to consider the ways in which borders not only obstruct but are also often productive of various kinds of desire for individuals and groups situated in the eastern peripheries of Europe. In contrast to studies from a diverse set of perspectives that tend to treat desires as preceding border restrictions, and borders as (only) obstructive, we ask, what is illuminated if we approach borders as productive of desire, and desire as built through particular relations and circumstances, infrastructures, and interventions, through which individuals are constantly called to be desiring subjects. What if we take seriously that desire which emerges out of and often because of complex sets of social, political, and economic possibilities and vulnerabilities created by and around the existence of borders? Particularly in terms of people’s desire to live different sorts of gendered and sexed lives, we see the productive side of borders offering as much insight into human action and subjectivity as the restrictive side of borders, even as both these aspects often work in tandem.
We invite participants, researchers of gender, sexuality, and borders in Europe’s east, to reflect on these productive dynamics on the individual level as well as in relation to whole societies or members of particular social groups; in both material and symbolic senses; and in general to approach borders not as a given but as fluid, processual, and changing products of historical and future-oriented imaginations. In keeping with the focus of EastBordNet as a whole and our workshops on gender and sexuality in particular, we invite participants to speak about what their research tells us about the material and symbolic workings of borders in terms of desires and aspirations that cause people to look with longing over borders or to value lives across borders as more fulfilling than their lives at home.
We see this roundtable as a useful opportunity to bring some of the collective thinking on borders from our interdisciplinary network of Europe-based scholars into dialogue with US-based anthropologists, both those also working on Europe and those working on border dynamics in other parts of the world. It is also a chance to consider the implications of more recent, and dramatic, changes around borders in migration in the past few years in Europe that have deeply affected politics and everyday life throughout the continent. We therefore find this of particular importance for the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, as we aim to consider Europe as a whole, beyond and in spite of the traditional East/West (or North/South) divide and across the borders of the EU. Finally, we consider it crucial to foreground issues of gender and sexuality as major components of current debates over mobility and difference in Europe, in order to contemplate longer histories and trajectories and what we can learn from them.