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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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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Questioning the Hyphen: Considering the hyphenated-American for an alternative approach to U.S nationalism by Aaron Gozum, 12/7/2017
Today, the American concept of nation is ardently debated between traditional nationalists hailing from a dominating gaze of white male patriarchy and the emerging voices of among the marginalized ethnic groups who have differing perspectives on American culture. As Anderson famously theorized, nations are constructions of our imagination built upon the culturally and politically dominant ideas of a group. The popularized definition of nation was defined as “an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 1983). Essentially, Anderson sought the belief that nationalism seemed to be the abstracted invention of nations where they do not exist through means of developing a sort of political kinship (6). Among the discourse of nationalism, many variations emerged. In the course of the U.S., two seem most prevalent: civic nationalism, which derives from political legitimacy intended to represent the democratic will of the people via social contract; and ethnic nationalism, which focuses on determining nationality from linguistic, religious or ancestral commonalities (Anderson 1983, Rousseau 1762, Barnard 1967). Emblematic of civic nationalism, President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate who seemed to stand for an assimilationist belief:
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism… The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities… each preserving its separate nationality” (President Theodore Roosevelt on Columbus Day, 1915).
Though the goal was most likely an attempt to reinforce solidarity, President Theodore Roosevelt — regardless of intention — imposed a necessity for homogenization. Post his presidency, World War I was underway, giving rise to the question of political loyalties among ethnic groups, particularly Irish-Americans; thus, motivating the denunciation of the hyphenated American as a response for national unification in the country. Though the negative effects of homogenization deserves further discussion, the main issue of this paper points here: if homogenization was the goal for U.S. American nationalism, the compelling question falls to unraveling why the term Asian-American appeared in the 2000 U.S. census reports, decades after the initial usage of the hyphen. If the aim was to create a shared, assimilated community among the residents in the U.S. like President Roosevelt intended, what is the purpose of tacking on another categorical box on the national population records?
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