Borders and Emotions
Queens University Belfast, 27-28 May 2004
International borders enclose, trap, protect, divide, and deny access to selective groups of people. It is therefore not surprising that borders - regarded as political, economic, social, legal and military devices - are able to trigger strong emotions.
But what are emotions, and how are they framed, expressed, experienced, and managed in border areas? Which notions of emotion underlie, justify or criticise changing border policies? How do the geographical, economic, and political processes in particular border regions influence local emotional dynamics? And how do feeling bodies in border regions interact and respond to particular social and physical environments?
Evidently, state borders can be of a specific emotional significance to border inhabitants who may be confronted and affected by their existence on a daily basis, even within transnational zones, such as the European Union. In different socio-historical circumstances, changing, disappearing or disrespected borders may generate strong feelings of fear, insecurity, hatred, hope or optimism. Borders can also be highly significant to those who travel from one state to another as tourists, labour migrants, refugees, expellees, smugglers, or subjects of criminal activities. Furthermore, the policies that decide who is allowed to live in and travel through frontier zones as well as subversive behaviour by locals and others are often backed up by emotionally powerful discourses that deal with history, territoriality, and identity. Consequently, ‘borders’ are not just physical barriers, but can be transformed into political symbols that may express intense, possibly contradicting feelings.
This conference aims to stimulate debate about these (and other) issues that lie on the interface of border studies and emotion studies.