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Edge Writing: Imaginary Geographies of Waiting at the Border, Stephen Wolfe

University of East London's (UEL) Centre for research on Refugees, Migration and Belonging (CMRB)

Monday, 30 September 2013 from 16:00 to 18:00 (BST)

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This paper will interrogate the borders of states and their borderscapes by concentrating on two literary texts focused on waiting at a border of the nation state. To a large extent a border can be considered a waiting act. A border causes a standstill, a difference in time and space. It is this waiting that will be analyzed in detail. The state of waiting is most powerfully and poetically represented by three famous works of literature, C.P.Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” (1904); the parable “Waiting for the Law” by Franz Kafka (1914-15, published 1925); and John Maxwell Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians (1980). It is with these three texts that I approach issues of waiting, so typical of a bordering/ordering and Othering process. I will argue that the waiting act consists of three dimensions which are mutually reinforcing: waiting, in terms of subjectification and internalization of the State by which citizens are made and often act; waiting performances, as they are enacted by border guards and the legal representatives of the State; and finally waiting as it is done by the Other at the border. In each text, at least two of these dimensions are represented aesthetically. The paper examines how each text limits and links these dimensionalities to spatial analogies creating a problematic use of metaphor in each narrative.

Stephen Wolfe is Associate Professor of English Literature and Culture, University of Tromsø, Norway. Research interests and publications include: transatlantic literature 1700- 1900, the literatures and cultures of border crossing narratives, and recent essays on border aesthetics. Wolfe is the author of “Writing Race on the Body: Barbary Coast Narratives and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” (Journal of European American Studies, 2012), and co-editor, with Johan Schimanski, of Border Poetics De- Limited (Wehrhahn, 2007).  Wolfe and Schimanski co-coordinate two research projects, Border Aesthetics, KULVER Programme, Norwegian Research Council (2010-2013); and a work package in the EUBORDERSCAPES Project: Bordering, Political Landscapes and Social Arenas, Potentials and Challenges of Evolving Border Concepts in a post-Cold War World, 2012-2016.

Do you have questions about Edge Writing: Imaginary Geographies of Waiting at the Border, Stephen Wolfe? Contact University of East London's (UEL) Centre for research on Refugees, Migration and Belonging (CMRB)

When & Where

EB G.18, Docklands Campus, University of East London
6 University Way
E16 London
United Kingdom

Monday, 30 September 2013 from 16:00 to 18:00 (BST)

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University of East London's (UEL) Centre for research on Refugees, Migration and Belonging (CMRB)

The Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, based in the School of Social Sciences of the University of East London, is led by co-directors Prof. Nira Yuval-Davis and Prof. Gargi Bhattachyra..

It brings together the interdisciplinary work carried out within the School, in the related areas of migration and refugee studies; diasporas and social cohesion; racism, nationalism and political religions; as well as citizenship, identity and belonging.

CMRB also collaborates with individuals, academic institutions and organisations outside UEL on research, conferences and seminars, in order to build knowledge on these crucial issues and provide a space for debate and creative thinking.

Disciplinary and methodological approaches employed by CMRB members demonstrate an enriching heterogeneity, ranging from history to ethnography, narrative analysis to performance, anthropology to cultural studies, and sociology to film studies.

In addition, all research seeks to engage with political and policy debates as well as more abstract theoretical concerns, and aims to involve research participants in various stages of the research work and the dissemination of results.

CMRB benefits from its unique location at the heart of East London, an area which has seen some of the highest rates of international settlement in Europe – historically and in the present day. The Refugee Council Archive and other related collections held at the university, also enhance the potential of the centre to be at the cutting edge of its field of stud

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