2 Minona St, Hawthorn, 3124 borders@borderlands.org.au (03) 9819 3239

Why “Borderlands?”

Naming “Borderlands”

Jacques Boulet “pinched” the word “Borderlands” from Gloria Anzaldua, who used it as the title of her 1987 book, because it seemed to capture so well – and so many aspects of – our present living condition.

Let me quote (and adapt) at some length from her attempts at circumscribing the concept:

“The actual physical borderland that I’m dealing with in this book is the Texas/U.S. Southwest/Mexican border. The psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands and the spiritual borderlands are not particular to the Southwest. In fact, the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals  shrinks with intimacy.

[A borderland] is not a comfortable territory to live in, [a] place of contradictions. Hatred, anger and exploitation are the prominent features of this landscape.

However, there [are] compensations (…), and certain joys. Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one’s shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an “alien” element. There is an exhilaration in being a participant in the future evolution of humankind, in being “worked” on. I have the sense that certain “faculties” – not just in me but in every border resident, … – and dormant areas of consciousness are being activated, awakened. Strange, huh? And yes, the “alien” element has become familiar – never comfortable, not with society’s clamor to uphold the old, to rejoin the flock, to go with the herd. No, not comfortable but home.”

And later she speaks of the (U.S.-Mexican) border as an “open wound” (una herida abierta)

“…where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it haemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country – a border culture. Borders are set up to define places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish “us” from “them”. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.”

Suburbs are borderlands. We live and move through them as we live and move through the fragments of our waking/sleeping days and nights: from bed/birth to school to work to shop to play to consume to produce to vote to garden to drive to rest and …. to bed/death again. Whilst there, we try to merge and integrate  nature with the non-nature of stone-concrete-asphalt-wood-plastic and tend to the natives in our front-back gardens, water our indoor pot-plants and keep the dust off the African drum in the corner of the lounge – domesticating the “wild” and giving a touch of the “wild” to the domestic. We mingle the indigenous with the first-second-third-… generation migrant, as next-door neighbours or brushing past one-another at crossroads or as salespersons-customers-workers-students-teachers-bosses and as wives/husbands/parents/ children. We try to settle locally, but – always – the global lurks to unsettle; we try to communicate globally, but – always – our various hungers hold us down-to earth; “constant craving“, indeed as k.d. lang sings it.

If global is local is global is local…. and if periphery is centre is periphery is centre…, claims of authenticity, purity, “normality” of identity, of origin and descent, claims out of which so much disaster, murder and war have evolved; claims one clings to in a vain attempt at personal and social certainty, security and independence; such claims become not only futile: they are distracting illusions and must somehow serve other purposes…. To enter the suburban borderland (and thus “Borderlands”) is an invitation to embrace our various hybridities and to forge our active participation in the “future evolution of humankind“…