Borderless Borders and the Architectural Corporeality of Berlin

Introduction

In our current climate of hyper-securitization, popular discourse around the world seems to suggest that the nation sits upon a fragile anxiety around immigrants. Because of these anxieties, the nation has focused on bolstering security, surveillance and the policing of national borders, in efforts to protect its sovereignty. Although there is this pervasive intensity at the border, in some places as we will explore with Germany, a post-migrant discourse has gained traction. While the post-migrant discourse assumes that Berlin should be seen as a city with people who have already migrated and have been a part of society for some time, the misnomer—echoing Germany’s refusal to collect migration histories in the naturalization processes of new citizens in prevention of the targeting of marginalized groups like Jewish populations during WWII—unfortunately connotes that these individuals have been integrated, assimilated, and welcomed into the city’s community. Furthermore, the term post-migrant tends to suggest that migration has ended, rather than being a powerful continuous global force. Rather as the digital inflection of globalization accelerates and intensifies the public imaginary, borders certainly exist on the fringes of the nation’s historically-drawn topographies, but also can be ideologically and materially imposed upon the migrant in more ways than just through the exterior physical walls of the fortress. While this is the case in many other ways—the lethargic bureaucracy of legality, racist and xenophobic sentiments that fueled the temporal topographies of terror during WWII and the Cold War, more recent paroxysmal rightwing violence, and the omission of historical narratives for the sake of a national coherence—this paper critiques the post-migrant society by narrowing its scope on how through the architectural body of the city of Berlin, borders can be reproduced in ways that persist within and travel beyond the nation’s material borders.

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The Vanishing Point

Temporal Brushstrokes on the Corporeal Canvas

Introduction

In the public imaginary shaped by the discursive temporalities of history, a mysticism seems to shroud new digital media and technology. In one perspective of this mysticism, new forms of media symbolize a celebratory mark of progress and advancement; while on the other hand, these technological developments represent the emergence of a dystopian narrative—even with a cursory glance into popular culture, one could see this in the science fiction genre, which recycles the classic storyline of a media-induced apocalypse where robots or some foreign more advanced lifeforms from some distant planet take over. In either case, the utopian optimists and the dystopian skeptics more or less mirror the magic and liquidity of late modernity and the Information Age, a novel phase in which the conditions of globalization are unevenly intensified, fragmentarily accelerated and more abstractly disoriented. Further as the digitally-afforded forms of circulations intensify the ambivalent and mystic conditions of globalization, the circulation of things like commodities, money, and information begin to move at more variegated velocities, scales and scopes and these shifting circuits are growing more and more incompatible with the lethargic apparatuses of the national project (Appadurai 2006, 2010). Thus, we must reassess the relationship between the nation and the digital phase of globalization because the suffused spilling of cultural circuits across the canvas of national boundaries—even if in a stippling effect—instantiate this incompatibility by pointing to the nation’s philosophical incoherence and maintenance of subjective ideological temporalities that render it in a primordial veracity of antiquity. In fact, the growing resuscitation of xenophobic anxieties associated with territorial ideologies—whether we look at the case of Trump’s cathexis on building a border or the fortress metaphor that Europe has been defined with in the wake of alarming spikes of refugees seeking asylum in the past several years—indubitably illustrates a need to examine these spectacularly-mediated tensions between the nation and the global in the Information Age.

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Blueprints to Nation Building: Consciousness, Revolution, then Culture?

Fixated on nationhood, Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth, prioritizes a revolutionary call for educating the masses, equipping them and liberating them to build national unity and culture. When we consider the ways in which we can go about building society, there is a common thread of asking how to do so and redefining the relation between nation and culture seems central to this question. In agreement with his aspiration for a democratic nation, I sadly align with Fanon’s decry for violence as necessary because violence seems like the only way to break the colonial cycle of oppression. Some say we are living in a postcolonial era, but I fear that today we seem to still sit comfortably in the second stage of embracing and discovering a common transnational culture—in that intellectual phase that Fanon seems to suggest as Negritude. Beyond breaking the colonial cycle of violence, we nevertheless lack a map toward a postcolonial, post-racial nation.

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Judith Butler talks at NYU Skirball Talks

I had the privilege of listening to Judith Butler speak on February 12th, 2018 and I wanted to take a moment to reflect because I was speechless by the endless conduits and channels in which her conversation inspires and challenges me to consider in my own studies and research. She spoke of how “we live through one another all the time.” As we spread gossip, read the news, tell stories, create art, and build relationships, we vicariously transform each other by reinforcing, challenging, and renegotiating the reality in which we live. I was deeply moved by her interweaving of José Esteban Muñoz with ideas of Freud, Benjamin, and Fanon among many other great thinkers.

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