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an investigation into a reimagining of the performativity of the Scottish-English borderlands ADITI JOSHI


stage 3 project The Glasgow School of Art Design Innovation and Citizenship

‘Border Stories’ is a reimagining of the experience of the Scottish-English borderlands through objects and interactions, asking people to reconsider what borders could mean. Today, even though the world is becoming more ‘globalized’ through increased flows of capital and technology, more physical borders are being built than ever before. These borders are often unsuccessful in fulfilling their functional purpose, and are instead serving a performative role for the country that created them. This performativity occurs on three different levels: the symbolic, the narrative, and the imaginary. ‘Border Stories’ is a set of counter symbols which visualizes a different border manifestation, hopefully leading to an upward ripple that affects the imaginary. The Scottish-English borderland provides a unique case study and one of timely importance. The fate of the relationship between Scotland and England is in flux post independence and Brexit referendums. Understanding what the border between England and Scotland means and could mean is, therefore, extremely relevant as it will serve as the face of Scotland to the rest of the world. ‘Border Stories’ not only brings people to the border area, but also prompts them to think of borders as social constructions rather than inherent systems, making the abolition of borders a closer possibility.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. ... Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.' Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. ... He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.' MENDING WALL Robert Frost















critical theory and taxonomy

Scottish-English engagements

testing of taxonomy

Scottish-English workshop

design direction and feedback












engagement worksheets

dark tourism

abolition and visuality

case studies

Throughout this document, there will be several reflective pieces that I want to call out. These will be in boxes like this.


MOTIVATION When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, only 11 border structures existed in the world but by 2016, 70 structures were built or in the process of being built. A paradox has formed where even though capital and information flows freer, borders themselves are becoming more ubiquitous and draconian in nature, making the flow of people more difficult. These new borders have led to increased animosity between nation-states and a physical separation between citizens in neighboring states. There are now an interface where lives are lost just through attempted migration or travel. This increased border fortification has never been shown to be an effective way of securing a country or people. Instead of being functional, borders represent a performance. They solidify the imaginary of the nationstate in a time where sovereignty may be waning in other ways (Brown, 2017). Instead of protecting states from direct military invasion, borders now symbolize political ideologies demonstrating state power. The border, along with other nationalistic symbols, cultural artifacts, and media, create the image and story of a nation-state to both those living inside and outside of the delineated border. At the same time, for those living in the borderlands, the border is often not such a strict line. Rather, they are places of cultural confluence and those that live in them occupy a ‘third space’, one that is neither on one side or the other (Bhabha, 1993). The border creates a liminality of culture, economies, and people, demonstrating that our differences are not as hard-lined as we imagine them to be. However, normally periphery regions are far and forgotten by the government, meaning that they are some of the most under-performing areas in the country, even though they could be serving an important symbolic purpose for the national ethos. Celebrating borderlands would work towards this cultural confluence and allow people to learn from one another rather than shutting them off.

-“Eight Ways to Build a Border Wall”, New York Times These are the eight border wall prototypes that were built along the Mexico-US border wall in 2017 as part of Donald Trump’s ‘build the wall’ rhetoric. They represent an example of the trends that borders seem to be taking: expensive, physical, and weaponized.


“Why are there borders in the first place? Why do we see borders still as given? Are there no alternatives then to the current compartmentalization of the globe? Have we become afraid to be named an essentialist or determinist when we dare to raise this question of the why?” -“Geopolitics of Border and Boundaries”, Henk Van Houtum

Design plays an important role in the manifestation, architecture, and aesthetics of these structures. Borders are social constructions that work as design Things (Latour, 2005), delineating the territory of a nation-state, not only keeping people out, but also containing their own citizens. For communities borders become something that, “perform identities and are performed through them at one and the same time” (Giudice, 2014). People are able to understand where they belong by differentiating who does not belong, and boundaries are important technologies of creating this belonging. Through both the physical and imaginary, borders order space (Houtum, 2005), creating geometric territories for governments to control, when the reality is a land and people that are much more organic than our maps would like us to believe. These liminal spaces present an important design opportunity, especially as the world’s borderlands become more ubiquitous, oppressive, and dangerous. At one point in time, borders were constructed by a specific group of people in order to organize and differentiate space. Humans want to categorize and find patterns and borders have become a way for that to happen globally. Even though at one point they did not exist, today borders have become ubiquitous. We cannot seem to even imagine a world in which countries do not secure their borders, nevermind a world where they do not exist. However, borders as they exist today are not sustainable. The world cannot become more fortified and walled as this would lead to one world conflict after another. Now is the time to have conversations about what these borders mean in today’s context and how they have to adapt to our changing world.


I was particularly drawn towards the phenomenon of nation state borders because crossing them has been something that has afforded me many of the privileges of my life. My parents immigrated to the United States before I was born and this ease in crossing the border is what allowed me opportunities that landed me here, completing my masters at GSA. Now, as borders become even more difficult to cross and there are news stories every day of people dying or being arrested at the border, my parent’s immigration would be near impossible today. As such, I wanted to investigate these constructions known as borders and understand the role design does and could play in reimagining them. As a designer, there are certain principles I find important when doing this work because of the impact and gravity of borders as a concept. I find it important to think about how this project can drive towards abolition of borders more generally. This does not mean that borders can become eradicated tomorrow, but rather there can be a first step to get people thinking about why borders exist and undermine the seeming rationality of these actually irrational social constructions. Additionally, borders drive capitalist regimes and a major purpose of them is to secure more capital for their nation-state. I do not believe it is possible to eradicate borders without eradicating capitalism so, in this way, I want my project to be anticapitalist in nature. Lastly, borders today perpetuate racist myths and ideologies through dominant masculine control. These white patriarchal controls harm all, but especially vulnerable populations. As such, this project will be both feminist and anti-racist in nature. These four guiding principles will contribute to the final form of my project, a piece that will ask people to question the role of borders using the Anglo-Scot example as a case study to start these conversations. One of my main motivations for this project was to marry my interest in critical theory reading with the more design research oriented engagements or interactions. Before this point, I felt the two were very disparate from one another, but I felt they could be useful in tandem. Therefore, for this project, I wanted to work both in the critical theory, general, global level along with the more contextualized, experiential, local level, and move between the two, ending up with a design intervention informed by both the hyper-local and the hyper-global.




This is the process that I followed for this project. It combined both theoretical, global aspects with local, experiential ones. This report will follow this general process, grouping some aspects together to illustrate how Border Stories was created.


border critical theory reading

creation of taxonomy


test taxonomy x 1 engagements test taxonomy x 2



test taxonomy x 3

test taxonomy x 4


visuality critical theory reading



design direction






UNDERSTANDING BORDERS AND THEIR PERFORMATIVITY In which I complete desk research regarding border theory, and relevant other critical theories (gender theory, critical race theory, etc.) to ground my work. From both this reading as well as interviews with professionals and academics, I created a taxonomy of the performativity of the border. This organizes the different ways in which acts are completed to ‘perform’ the border, thereby securing it in the minds of the people. This categorization is able to uncover relationships between the levels of performativity and then can be applied to different border contexts to understand how it performs.





Because borders do not achieve their functional purposes, I wanted to look at the performativity of borders and how they work theatrically. As such, I took the idea of performativity front gender theory and applied it to the idea of borders. The theorist Judth Butler talks of ‘acts’ that people do (such as speech, behaviors, laws, habits, etc.) that constantly reinscribe a certain social construct into how society works. For example, she wrote that the daily task of choosing what to wear can be seen as a type of performance, as this influences the gender that outsiders inscribe on a person when they view their outfit choice (Butler, 1990). For this project, I wanted to understand what sort of ‘acts’ individuals and states perform in order to create borders as part of everyone’s everyday consciousness, making borders seem inherent rather constructed.

I also defined my personal understanding of borders. Borders can be both a noun and verb. They represent a socially constructed edge, limit, or interface as well as the act of creating such an edge, limit, or interface. Borders are territorial and are imposed by a person or group of people with power. They can either be physically manifested and constructed or more ideological. Often, these borders are created between two seemingly different groups of people for some political, cultural, and/or social purpose(s). During the course of this reading and expert interviews, I also came across the idea of abolition, which started with respect to the carceral state, but is now moving into border studies. This not only connects incarceration to immigration policies, but also the border to the prison, bringing the two movements together. You can read more about my findings and how this affected my project in Appendix A.


“Humans set the threshold of tolerance for difference that ultimately results in borders.” -“Bordering and Ordering the Twenty-first Century”, Gabriel Popescu

“Borders “cannot define an external ‘they’ without producing a reactionary ‘we’”. -“Walled States, Waning Sovereignty”, Wendy Brown

Throughout the course of this project, critical theory was an important part of my practice. I have always been drawn to reading and understanding the world through critical theory. As such, connecting my project to someone like Judith Bulter meant a lot to me as it grounded my work. However, I knew that it was important that this project had legs beyond just reading critical theory. Because this is a design project and not purely an academic philosophical one, I needed to push the critical theory into the real world using design techniques and engagements. This first start with reading and theory made me feel like I understood the context a little better and made engagements feel less daunting. I also felt, especially with respect to the Scottish-English borderlands, it allowed me to think about borders in a new way and see them from both a global and contextual perspective, because of this theoretical component.


This is how I defined the two main concepts of my project: the idea of performativity (see below), coming from gender theory, which I applied to the social construction of borders (see right).

PERFORMATIVITY /pəˈfɔːm(ə)tɪvɪti/ 1. (adjective)

acts (speech, behaviors, habits, laws, etc.) that are carried out repeatedly that serve to define and maintain an aspect of our world that is socially constructed; the process of subject (re)formation through social acts see also gender performativity, Judith Butler


BORDERS /ˈbɔːdə/ 1. (noun)

the constructed line separating two places, communities, or areas (often nation-states) 2. (verb)

the act of drawing or forming said lines; the setting of borders



To organize my information and research, I decided to create a taxonomy of the different ways a border performs. This allowed me to classify my information into both large categories and smaller sub-categories, creating relationships between different manifestations of bordering that happen globally. I used a structure similar to Linnaeus’ classification of natural kingdoms to relate these contexts. Using this rank-based from of scientific classification allows me to relate concepts and phenomenon to each other. The highest level includes the performativity of bordering in the physical sense and epistemological bordering, which exists much more as a way of thinking. The categories within these are the symbolic, narrative, and imaginary, which is where much of the analysis was done in terms of interventions and changes within this system (you can read more about this in part five). This taxonomy provides a useful system for organizing relationships of border phenomenon to one another as well as understanding not only general border performance, but how individual borders perform, providing a framework for beginning to think of borders as a global phenomenon with unique local characteristics, each of which could provide spaces and places for reimagination. Individual manifestations of borders and their characteristics can be organized within this taxonomy to create a map of how that particular border is performing. This taxonomy does not see these categories as completely independent of one another. Rather, they rely heavily on each other and in order to show these relationships, the words in the definitions that are also in the taxonomy will be italicized.


1.a.i RITUALS 1.a.ii HOME 1.a.iii SPECTACLE 1.a.iv PALIMPSEST











PHYSICAL PERFORMATIVITY OF BORDERING PHYSICAL PERFORMATIVITY OF BORDERING is the set of acts that nation-states and their citizens complete to create the phenomenon of borders. Through symbols and narrative, the ‘border’ is performed. These performances are seen as an inherent and natural part of society and because of this, the borders are seen similarly. The idea of a border is a dual act; by bordering, one is also ‘ordering’ space (Houtum, 2005). In order to create fictional order in a world that does not have any organically, humans have created borders. In this way, bordering is inherently creating categories to order people and space which actually naturally defy such categorization. This branch of the taxonomy is related mostly to the more physical aspects of the border, things that we can see or hear that construct the ways in which we view the border itself. These are things created and manifested in the built environment or through media, literature, etc.



SYMBOLISM SYMBOLISM is an important technique used in the creation of borders. These are physical representations that exist in material forms and whose meanings are formed through social relationships. These symbols are created as metaphors or signs, for a particular signified (Hodge, 1988). In other words, symbols are created to stand in for borders, and these symbols create a visual of something that otherwise only exists in people’s minds. The way in which the symbols are constructed affect how we view the border, as they map to what we imagine or believe to be true in our minds.



NARRATIVE is a hegemonic and dominant representation that is told about an object or group of people. This ‘script’ is often told through a symbol or set of symbols. The relationship between narrative and symbol relate closely; narratives are constructed to explain the gaps between the signifier and the signified (Stewart, 2012). These narratives then influence how people perceive, understand and/or experience a phenomenon. Narratives are created and told by individuals as well as media, literature, or other forms of storytelling.






RITUALS are the acts that happen on the border that serve to solidify the collective imagination of that area. They often tell a certain story of what has happened or will happen. They can be relatively mundane activities that people have to do at the border, such as stamping one’s passport, or more symbolic, historical ones, such as battle reenactments. These are acts that happen either while crossing the border or that happen at the border itself, that make the area have a coherent message. These usually happen on a regular basis making them seem part of life at the border.

HOME is a symbol that is created from the border. The border is similar to walls of a house, protecting those within its bounds. The fortification of border paints the people within them as vulnerable. In this way, the country is anthropomorphically feminine and something to be protected. The border is that masculine protection for the country. As such, the border is inherently gendered, which is often why the act of migration is also seen as a masculine act (Ahmed, 2013).



SPECTACLE is some seemingly outrageous event or display that attracts attention in the public consciousness. Often times this occurs at the border, bringing tourists, media, or general public to this area. It can often lead to the sensationalization of a certain phenomenon, group, or symbol depending on the narratives told in through the spectacle. Often times it heightens separation between groups, places, etc (Stewart, 2012). De Genova writes of the recent migrant spectacle that has been portrayed in the media, which has brought attention to the harmful effects of bordering (2011). Spectacle differentiates itself from ritual in that it is used to describe a sense of fear or desire, force or strength to an outside force, creating the future and external image of the border rather than rewriting the current and internal one.




TOPOLOGY OF THE LAND is the understanding that while borders do not completely follow the natural landscape, often times the symbol of that landscape provides an important marker for the border itself. The physical aspects of the land are used to describe where the border is and this affects people’s imaginary of how the border is situated within nature. Using the landscape can also ascribe a certain sense of false naturalism to the border. In this way, the land sometimes dictates where the border will go, and certain land features (such as rivers) are seen as ‘natural’ borders, even though they have liminality and two-dimensionality attached to them, making them not such strict border markers as people assume.


PALIMPSEST PALIMPSEST originally comes the writing over manuscripts, so that works would have kept traces of earlier writings. In the context of borders, this integrates the idea that current representations of the present keep traces of the past. In this way, the current place of the border also its past manifestations, which are often written over in the built environment itself. (Schimanski, 2018). Objects and places cannot be viewed without their temporal aspects and borders are no different. If we think about borders as historical objects that have a lasting impact, we can better understand their current manifestations.


NATIONALISM is an ideology that ties people to a nation and identity, creating a territory of people based around a specific geographic bounded space (Popescu, 2011). In this way, people gain their identity based around the geographic nation-state of which they are a citizen. It combines a set of people that a sovereign can control and creates a sense of imagined community that all subscribe to that nation. Because border defines a nation they in turn define who subscribes to a certain sense of nationalism.




SOVEREIGNTY comes from a theological idea that ‘God’ gives power to the sovereign to rule over a land and people. Today, it has come to be a symbol of the nationstate having that power. Sovereignty comes with a certain performativity, and the theatrics of said sovereignty is demonstrated by the nation-state. Today, because of capital, sovereignty is becoming more difficult to claim and for some, the concept is beginning to erode (Brown, 2017). As such, more nation-states are beginning to create borders, and more often physical borders, to secure that sense of sovereignty in the face of erosion. Borders help represent the idea that you are moving from one sovereign nation to another, and create a narrative that these places have total sovereignty.



OTHERING OTHERING is intrinsically tied to bordering because since borders create internal categories, they also create ‘Others’. Borders create an ‘us’ while also creating a ‘them’, and tied to that ‘them’ is a fictionalized narrative. Through this, difference becomes embedded as a territorial condition (Popescu, 2011). Additionally, for those borders that are physically manifested with some process and aesthetic, the ‘Other’s’ narrative is inherently mapped to the aesthetic of the physical border. Since this sense of ‘Other’ is created, the differences can seem arbitrary and when this is uncovered, a sense of uncanny arises, and the ‘Other’ doesn’t seem so intrinsically created.



SECURING CAPITAL is an important reason why borders exist. Capital is now a ‘global sovereign’ (Brown, 2017), and the border functions as a way to create a large, hegemonic capitalist power. In this way, the nationstate can secure more capital than any one individual or corporation. Borders become the way to delineate both territorial power and power over capital. The security of capital through borders, as symbolized by objects such as currency, help sustain the narrative of sovereignty, even while capital becomes more globalized.



EPISTEMOLOGICAL BORDERING EPISTEMOLOGICAL BORDERING relates to the way of thinking that borders manifest in people. Borders, because they relying on ordering, create a way of thinking that creates categorization. Society then begins to think of groups in terms of their categories rather than individuals (Schimanski, 2018). This categorization inherently creates a hierarchy and, therefore, a category that is worth protecting and one that is not. In other words, epistemological bordering is a way of thinking that categorizes peoples, creating hierarchies as it does so.



IMAGINARY is the way in which we perceive the world around us not in terms of the natural and organic but rather what is created and put forth collectively. The imaginary is not fictitious and fantastical but rather a demonstration based around the symbolic. It is the realization that much of our society is constructed instead of inevitable. The imaginary affects what we believe is ‘true’ in our world and creates a basis of how our society should function.




IMAGINED GEOGRAPHY comes from the work of Edward Said, who wrote of a specific imaginary based around a geographic space (1978). Borders play an important role in creating this imagined geography. They create fictionalized representations of space that are not based in natural phenomenon but instead a set of narratives that create this idea of structured geography. In creating these imagined geographies, borders also create a shared identity, or nationalism, for those within that geographic space.



COLLECTIVE IMAGINARY is a subset of the imaginary which is related to a specific social group. It is a way of understanding collective life that realizes that in order for community to be possible there needs to be a shared vision between a group of people for them to buy into that way of life and societal structure. It also relates to a shared history that people within a specific nation-state buy into and how they remember particular events.



IMAGINED COMMUNITY comes from the work of Benedict Anderson who wrote that nations were built on imagined communities because while any one person will never know every other person in their nation, they are still brought together under one identity and set community (2016). In this way, the narratives, symbols, characteristics, media, and definitions, help bring together this socially constructed group. Borders play an important role in creating this imagined community by delineating where it stops and, therefore, dictating who is inside and outside of said community.



ENGAGING WITH THE SCOTTISHENGLISH BORDER In which I ground my work and understanding in the context of the Scottish-English border through engagements, desk research, interviews, and visual ethnography. While engaging with this context, I compiled a list of manifestations of the Scottish-English border that I could then place into the framework of the taxonomy I created. You can see that specific creation of the Scottish-English taxonomy in the next section and in the pull-out taxonomy document.



The following are a set of insights I gained from applying my engagements and research to the framework of the taxonomy of the borderland. The full taxonomy can be viewed in the pullout appendix.



The border between Scotland and England can serve as a test case to start conversations around nation-state borders more generally. It is not like many others: the two are not independent from one another, although certain policies are devolved between the two governments. Neither one of the countries is at war with each other and while the independence referendum may have sparked a succession movement in Scotland, they are not actively seeking their independence through violence. However, this region has a rich history, one marred by bloody conflict that can be seen etched in the landscape itself. Now, after 300 year of peace and a ‘fixed’ border, the border is more symbolic, demonstrating the differences between the two peoples as well as the creation of a ‘cross-border’ AngloScottish border identity (Shaw, 2017).

Today, in this post-Brexit landscape, more powers are going to get devolved between England and Scotland so everyday lives across the border may change drastically. The future is uncertain; we do not know what the border between England and Scotland will look like in 2, 5, 10, 15 years. However, “there’s a sense, the border between Scotland is important and there’s that sense of the line again,” (Heffernan, 2018), and these proactive conversations around the border can get people to imagine what its future manifestation could be.

The border bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed


ITS HISTORY Throughout its history, the Scottish-English border has existed in several different manifestations. Many say that it started with Hadrian’s Wall, first created by the Roman emperor Hadrian in BCE 122 to separate two kingdoms. This physical manifestation of the border has meant that “Scotland and England [are treated as though they are] simple, straightforward and unchanging entities” (Stewart, 2017). Ironically, those that came to build this ‘border wall’ were immigrants from all over the Roman empire, building a structure that was then going to make it difficult to migrate. However, the building of Hadrian’s Wall as a border is contested. Some say that it was built as a job creation scheme, to give the new Romans jobs. And as Jim Herbert from Tween 1000 told me, “if you’re going to split a country in two in an arbitrary place, chose the shortest distance between the coasts” (Herbert, 2018). As the border moved over time, is changed location because of political or social purpose and “tends to defy traditional ways of defining borders… it is primarily there because ‘someone decided to put it there’” (Shaw, 2017). In this way, regardless of the original purpose of Hadrian’s Wall, it has come to symbolize today’s border and has affected its current location and manifestation.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk

This history has made today’s border exist as something of a hybrid still, leading to certain particularities. Carlisle for example, has a history of being a 2,000 year border city, always on the English side (Heffernan, 2018). The city has a close relationship to its border history, even though most of the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall have disappeared to make way for the modern city. On the Eastern side of the border, Berwick Upon Tweed changed hands 13 times between the Scottish and English, ultimately settling on the English side of the border. Its Scottish history is still prevalent, seen in the most everyday ways, such as its Scottish postcode. Berwick is part of Northumberland, the part of England between Hadrian’s Wall and today’s border. Jim, who lives in Berwick, told me about how, during the independence referendum, they would use aerial shots of Hadrian’s Wall, underscoring to him how Northumberland “isn’t in the mental map of England for a lot of people,” because of this physical inscription of the wall that still exists. This wide variety of experience between the border demonstrates the importance to “acknowledge the multiplicity, fragmentation, and the generally dynamic nature of identity, and to remain skeptical of any monolithic assertions of, for example Anglo-Scottish ‘borderlandness’” (Holt, 2017).

Welcome to Scotland sign near Berwick Upon Tweed



INCREASED INTEREST There has been increased interest and focus on the Scottish-English borderland because of recent political events. The borderland region is under-performing and to combat this, the Borderland Growth Deal was formed this year. It brings together 5 council areas with “common economic challenges” to learn from each other and promote the region. Through this, it creates cross-border partnerships to “develop economies across the border” (Scott, 2018). It’s not just about the growth of the area to help its citizens; it is also a political ploy. As Will from the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership told me, if Scotland is to seek independence again, “The Scottish borderland economy is an important part of that; to make sure that an independent Scotland is sustainable.” (Hageland, 2018). As has often happened throughout history, which we see again through this increased investment, “wider agendas have often been imposed on inhabitants through contested ownership, temporary priorities, the ramifications of national and international circumstance, or of decisions made elsewhere. Actual lives are often lived uncomfortably too amidst misrepresentations of place that are frequently projected by outsiders” (Holt, 2017). Because there is this increased conversation and investment around the Scottish-English border, it is important to be careful about how these conversations are had, making sure to center residents instead of politics. This project aims to achieve such an endeavor, through working for the good of the borderland itself. You can view more quotes from the interviews mentioned here in the Scottish-English taxonomy pullout.



USING THE TAXONOMY AS A FRAMEWORK TO GENERATE INSIGHTS In which I test the framework of the taxonomy within the context of other borders around the world. These taxonomies helped me to generate insights about ways in which borders are performing more generally around the globe, providing design directions and interventions for my work. Because this taxonomy was created from general critical theory, I wanted to see its translatability to other contexts. This would be an important testing of the framework. Additionally, I wanted to understand what common themes existed between borders and use those as ways to influence my design direction.



TESTING THE TAXONOMY After applying the taxonomy created in Part One to the context of the Scottish English border, I wanted to understand its translatability as a framework as well as help situate the Scottish-English border with respect to other global border manifestations.

As such, I decided to apply the taxonomy to other borders around the world. To pick which ones, I used Martinez’s typologies of borderlands (see below). This framework has four different levels of borders: integrated (those that have a free flow of goods and people), interdependent (mostly stable with cross-border cooperation), coexistent (slightly open, limited cooperation), and alienated (completely shut off from one another).

INTEGRATED BORDERLANDS strong stability, free flow of goods and people, borderlanders feel themselves as part of one system

INTERDEPENDENT BORDERLANDS mostly stable, increased cross-border cooperation, borderlanders have friendly and cooperative relationships

COEXISTENT BORDERLANDS slightly open, limited bi-national cooperation, borderlanders have close relationships

ALIENATED BORDERLANDS tension, closed border, no interaction, residents are strangers


Given this categorization, I considered the current manifestation of the Scottish-English border to be the most like an integrated border - realizing that this may not always be the case, and definitely was not in the past. I then picked the Belfast Peace Lines as a case study for the coexistent border as the community has to work together due to proximity but there are occasional violent situations. The Mexico-US border served as a coexistent border, as the two cooperate in trade deals, but it is not completely open.

Lastly, the Korean Demilitarized Zone was an example of an alienated borderland, as the two do not speak often and their relationship is tenuous at best. For each of these case studies, I collected information about how the border currently performs through desk research and interviews and then organized them into the taxonomy.

SCOTTISH-ENGLISH BORDERLANDS people can move without any showing of documents, differentiation in terms of identity but one state

BELFAST PEACE LINES in one city, sense of a city identity, a free flow of goods and people, sometimes clashes, removal of some lines

MEXICO-US BORDERLAND some sense of an integrated border area, movement of migrant workers and tourists, beginning to be more closed

KOREAN DEMILITARIZED ZONE little communication between two states, constant state of tension and outbreak of war

You can view all of the completed taxonomies in the four pullout documents attached to this report.


From all of these four taxonomies together and my understanding of their relevance through engagements, I was able to get a better understanding of how borders perform at different levels. There were several similarities, which created the insights on the right. These six insights were shown in each of the four border case studies in different ways, but each were telling of the phenomenon of the performativity of borders. These global border insights helped to contextualize the specific manifestation of the Scottish-English borderland and provided routes for design interventions.

Situating my reading and expert interviews within a framework of a taxonomy was a helpful way of structuring my understanding of the relationships at work. The concept of bordering was extremely daunting and it took careful organization and precise definition making to create these categories. When looking at current taxonomies of borders, many relate to the manifestation of the circumstances of the borderlands themselves, so taking a more performative approach gave me something more unique to add to the conversation. Through the application of the taxonomy, I was able to understand how my work could translate to multiple contexts. Even though I was focused on the ScottishEnglish border, I personally felt it would be useful to have a more global perspective. Since this was something that was created from a more theoretical context, it should be related to multiple borders and seeing that work validated my process thus far.

During this time, in the US, news broke that ICE was detaining immigrant families and separating them from their parents at the border. This was happening at the time when I was creating the taxonomy and it affected me in two ways: (1) I felt that looking at the border was important and even more timely because of this news story; but (2) it seemed that maybe I could be doing more work to help these people at the moment. Before doing this masters, I was involved in more activist work, and doing this project felt trivial at the time when people were dying on the border in my homeland. In other words, I was asking myself ‘How come I, someone with already so much privilege, was able to sit at home comfortably, completing a masters in ‘borders’ while people were suffering at this very same location’? However, I had to tell myself that this project, while not going to change the world by any stretch of the imagination, was an exercise for myself in using my skills for these larger contexts and would allow me to go back with an understanding I did not previously have, and use design to reimagine these social possibilities.


The border does not fit perfectly to the natural landscape.

Borders may change place but leave their mark on the built environment.

TOPOLOGY OF THE LAND river tweed only sometimes the border (Scotland-England) ‘debatable lands’ (Scotland-England) walls that cut through nature (Mexico-US) creation of nature reserve (Korean)

PALIMPSEST Hadrian’s Wall (Scottish-England) bridges along the Tweed (Scottish-England) end of peace lines but continued segregation (Belfast) history of the korean war (Korean)

There is careful creation of aesthetics of border structures and signs.

There is (re)playing/(re)telling/(re)living of important border stories and actions.

Peripherality of border regions leads to under-performance.

The imagined place of the border often does not fit the reality.

SPECTACLE border structures on walks (Scotland-England) walls as places for mural/art for power (Belfast) peace/dark tourism around walls (Belfast) aesthetics of Trump’s wall (Mexico-US) ‘build the wall’ rhetoric (Mexico-US) jsa zone (Korean) tourism (Korean)

SECURING CAPITAL under-performance of border region (Scottish-England) walls only exist in more ‘deprived’ areas (Belfast) smuggling economy large in border region (Mexico-US) ‘saving’ of capitalism (Korean)

RITUAL border rides (Scottish-England) border ballads (Scottish-England) 12th of July (Belfast)

IMAGINED GEOGRAPHY forgetting of Northumberland (Scotland-England) use of Hadrian’s Wall for border (Scotland-England) border structure not at real border (Mexico-US) 38th parallel (Korean)




In which I recontextualize my insights and engage with others around their relevance for the Scottish-English border.




LOCATION Scottish Borders Council Headquarters DATE July 19th, 2018 DURATION ~ 1 hour IN ATTENDANCE Will Hageland, Chair Giles Ingram, Management Committee Vicki Steel, Management Committee student at Borders College representative from Visit Scotland 5 tourist business owners

In order to understand how people living in the ScottishEnglish borderlands related to these insights, I hosted a workshop with the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership (SBTP) board. This was a group of ten individuals who either owned tourist businesses (such as hotels, restaurants, etc.) or who worked for the general Scottish tourism industry (places such as Visit Scotland). This board has been working towards understanding how to better present the borders as a coherent entity to the outside public to encourage more visitors. They have been struggling with their brand. Even though the borders is a diverse place, they find it important to put forward a coherent vision so outsiders understand the area and are drawn towards visiting it. For this workshop, I prompted the board with three different activities, each at one of the levels of performativity from the taxonomy. For the symbolic, I had them brainstorm what places or events they felt demonstrated the borders well. The narrative task was to create a ‘best of the borders trail’. For the imaginary, I prompted them with an anthropomorphized Scotland and England and asked them to imagine their interaction at the border. You can view these worksheets in Appendix B.


Through this workshop, it became clear that the members of the SBTP, like many people in the general population, have a certain assumption about what borders mean. They saw borders as inherently negative objects, and had a hard time overcoming that connotation. They spoke of how the current “construction of borders accentuates people’s difference.” Because of this connotation, they did not necessarily see the border as a place where people stopped. From my reading around dark tourism (see Appendix C), I prompted them with other border tourist attractions, which helped them better understand their uniqueness. We spoke of the DMZ zone, and they immediately saw how their border could be positioned as a foil. They saw their role as showcasing how the Scottish-English border was different from most others and doing so by “showcasing love at the border”, positioning it as a beacon of conflict resolution. They spoke of a “border’s welcome” which would be an opening and accepting act at the border rather than the divisive ones that happen at many other borders around the world. This engagement was really valuable in understanding what the current conversation is in the borderlands around how to communicate themselves to an outside audience. It allowed me to understand what the difficulties are for them in terms of coming up with this coherent story. I was also able to better realize what role the idea of the border had, both for people who live in the border, but also for how people talk about their area to outside tourists. One of the main key takeaways for me is how, when prompted with a new framing of the border that I created from the taxonomy, they were able to reposition how they viewed themselves and their situation, giving them a different outlook for external representation as well. This gave evidence to my taxonomy as a framework that could also be used for design interventions, which I used moving forward into the next stage of the project.

INSIGHTS The Scottish-English border is different than most borders but the way that its shown is similar to may others. People have an overwhelmingly negative perception of what borders are and how they work. Right now there is no cohesive tourism offering around the borders; there are several specialist activities and areas but nothing that is the ‘taste of the borders’. Tourists today have a hard time paying attention on one topic and want to get a ‘best of’ view of a place rather than spending a lot of time; people usually only take trips of around 3-4 days to the borders.

There should be much more of a celebration of the borderlands as a place of coming together and love rather than the division as is shown right now.


This workshop was really insightful in getting me to situate my taxonomy and project within the context of the borders. This particular group was especially useful because they not only think about the people living in the border, but also how they are viewed by an external audience, as they are trying to bring tourists to the area. As such, they have to think about how the border is portrayed and how that portrayal does and does not fit the reality. This helped for my own project because they were thinking of very similar concepts to what I have been, but in the context of tourism, so I could take many of their ideas and thoughts and translate it to my own design process. During the actual workshop itself, I had begun with thinking that they would think about different important places in the borders, use those to create a trail, which was the narrative task, then use that to create the flyer, the symbolic task, and use that to do the task around the imaginary. However, because this was a group that met often, they were much more generative when talking rather than using the worksheets. While they served as useful prompting material but did not actually end up filling the sheets out, reminding me to remain flexible. I ended the workshop by telling them what I imagined for this project and some similar border case studies I was looking at (such as the Korean DMZ zone). This part of the conversation was extremely generative because it allowed them to situate the context of their border with respect to others. Before this conversation it seemed they had a very particular understanding of borders that was informed mostly by a negative connotation coming from recent news and it was hard for them to expand beyond that stereotype. Having this conversation around the performativity of borders when they first thought of their particular circumstance and then we widened it out to the general comparative situations helped in understanding what their role was in the broader global border conversation.



VISUALITY THEORY AND DESIGN DIRECTION In which I turn back to critical theory and case studies to understand design directions to create ‘Border Stories’.



From insights gained both from the taxonomy as well as engagements and workshop, I then brainstormed design directions. In the taxonomic framework of symbolic, narrative, and imaginary, the symbolic is at the base, so it provides an entry point for a design intervention (see below). During my conversations with people living and working on the border and through the workshop, I kept hearing that this particular border between Scotland and England is very different from other borderlands. However, when looking at its performativity through the taxonomy, it looked similar to many others. I began to think about ways in which the symbolic could be changed, at this base semiotic level in order to influence an upward change towards viewing the border differently more generally. I looked specifically at the field of visuality, because one of the most important components when thinking about counter-symbolism is the visuality that is affects. Visuality, sometimes termed ‘representation’, demonstrates how and what can be viewed by people. It recognizes that the images and symbols that we create not only affect our own history and how we view the world around us but also who can look at what and when.




The relationship between the symbolic, narrative, and imaginary (the main components of the taxonomy created in Part One. The symbolic is at the base, it affects the narrative, which influences our imaginary and that, in turn, affects the symbols that are then created.

Related to this idea of visuality is the idea of inverse visuality which is “any moment of visual experience in which the subjectivity of the viewer is called into question by the density or opacity of what he or she sees” (Mirzoeff, 2013). Along with this is veiled visuality which “performs a similar function by dividing into two means of the veil that is both visible and invisible at once” (Mirzoeff, 2013). Both of these relate to the how I am viewing the role of counter-symbolism. Counter-symbols can bring into focus certain ideas or objectives, thereby making them visible. In this way, these counter symbols de-veil what is hidden, allowing people to uncover certain aspects of a phenomenon. Counter-visuality, and therefore countersymbols, work on “illuminating the invisible, excavating the underground, revealing the inscribed landscape, and raising the ephemeral ghoulish presence” (Schept, 2014). Here again I came across the importance of visuality within conversations around abolition and how many abolitionists are using counter-visual methods to uncover the draconian carceral state to the general public. Because of my earlier connection to abolition of incarceration at the beginning of this project, understanding the way that tourism and visuality intersected in prisons helped frame how it could be viewed at the border as well. You can read more about my findings in Appendix D. For this particular project, I wanted to think about what particular counter-symbols could be created in the Scottish-English borderlands that demonstrate not only the hidden features of this area, but also the paradoxes that exist within borderlands more generally. The idea is that by highlighting the paradoxes within the borders contextually and globally, viewers craft different narratives and through sharing these stories, a different imaginary around borders begins to form. These counter-symbols will strive to show the borderlands as a place of coming together and confluence rather than division. There are several case studies which also influenced this project, which can be found in Appendix E.


“A counter-visual ethnography rehabilitates our ocular vantages to see what is not there but which structures the present carceral moment by illuminating the invisible, excavating the underground, revealing the inscribed landscape, and raising the ephemeral ghoulish presence. In doing so, counter-visual ethnography attempts to envision and presage a counter-carceral future.” “Unseeing like a Prison”, Judah Schept


BORDER STORIES From this came Border Stories. Border Stories is an initiative that would be put together through a partnership of several local and national organizations. It would include tourist organizations (such as Visit Scotland and the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership), arts organizations (both local museums such as Tullie House and national grant providers such as Creative Scotland), and governmental organizations (coalitions such as the Borderlands Growth Deal as well as local councils such as the Scottish Borders Council or the Carlisle Council). These sets of organizations would come together to create Border Stories, a set of counter symbols embedded within the Scottish-English borderlands, highlighting the paradoxes and inconsistencies of the performativity of the border, as shown in the insights gathered in part three. The eight symbols are not static but rather interactive in nature, some using multiple senses. They provide several entry points into the entire framework of Border Stories. Together they form a trail along the Scottish-English border which encourages interactive and sustained engagement.

These counter symbols leverage the way in which people interact with the border today. On the right you can see a map of the landscape of the border as it exists as well as its historical remnants (this is the base layer). The first overlay (in green) is the set of natural and man made interaction points (roads, rivers, parks, etc.). The second overlay (in orange) are the set of counter symbols created through Border Stories. The eight interactive symbols connect areas to the border, creating a system of interacting through the entire borderlands. Border Stories is targeted both at local residents and tourists; entry points include not only the physical symbols themselves but also an online platform that brings them together, which you can read about later in this section. The next pages will detail each of the symbols, ending with how they are connected to one another in the larger framework of Border Stories.




The following details each of the counter-symbols described on the map, which serve as entry points to the trail of Border Stories.



Love locks: people place locks that represent their relationship on bridges across the globe.

Peckham peace wall: people can fill in post-it notes to share sentiments of love and peace to others living in the area



near Berwick Upon Tweed


local residents of Berwick and tourists to the area


(re)telling of border stories border does not follow natural landscape


1.a.i ritual 1.a.v topology of the land

There are many bridges along the Tweed that represent crossing the border, but are rarely marked as such. Even though the river is the dividing line between the places, it actually has depth to it. This would add this depth to bridges that already exist, marking them as places of conversation and confluence where people could come together. The bridge would include places where people could place their own stories as they related to the border. They would then be processed and visitors could interact with the bridge, reading the stories that were placed there.



Four corners marker: where four US states come together, a popular tourist destination where people stand on all four at the same time

Piece that twinned cities with ‘your darkest thought’ and ‘your wildest dreams’ bringing into question the idea of city twinning and what it could mean.



cities along Hadrian’s Wall and today’s border (Newcastle, Berwick Upon Tweed, Carlisle, etc.)


local residents of these cities


borders change their place but leave a mark (re)telling of border stories


1.a.i ritual 1.a.v palimpsest

The border has changed drastically over time but often these historical borders aren’t connected to today’s border. This would be a framework that would twin cities along Hadrian’s Wall with towns that are along today’s border. Together these cities would host events and festivals throughout the year that were related to their shared border cities (for example: historical reenactments, cultural festivals, etc.) to bring the communities together through a shared border history.



Photo of a set of headphones left in the woods.

Tree Listening: project that got people to listen to what happens inside of trees.



along the Pennine Way


walkers and visitors to the Northumberland National Park


borders leave their mark on landscape border does not follow natural landscape


1.a.iv palimpsest 1.a.v topology of the land

Peat moss is an important part of the Scottish landscape and also is unique in how it ‘remembers’ things. What if this ability could be used to tell stories of the past as the moss would hear it? This particular counter-symbol would be an installation on the moss that people could plug into that would play a track of what would happen at that point and place during history. Placed along a popular walking route, it would encourage people to stop and listen to border history. They would hear sounds from important battles that happened in that place, crafting a landscape and time around them that demonstrates that region’s border history.



Photo of a common riding that happens yearly in the Scottish Borders

The Border Patrol stationed along the Mexico-US border.



along the Scottish Borders Council area


residents and tourists to the area


(re)telling of border stories aesthetics of border spectacles


1.a.i ritual 1.a.iii spectacle

This is inspired by the common ridings that happen yearly and the border patrols that exist on a lot of contentious borders. This would be a regular festival of collaboration between the borderlands through the development of an existing ritual. A group of ‘greeters’ would follow the common rider’s path but would welcome people to the border rather than keeping them out. Right now when we think of people patroling the border, they have a negative connotation but, in reality, in this region, there is a historical component to ‘border patrols’ or ‘reivers’ that is celebrated today. This highlights the particularities of the Scottish-English border as a place of welcoming rather than keeping out.



Tin can telephone.

Call a Swede: people could phone a telephone number that would connect them to a ‘random’ Swede.



Carter Bar, along the A68


travelers, people commuting, those living in the area


aesthetics of border spectacles


1.a.iii spectacle

One of the few noticeable differences that happen when you cross the border is that the accent changes. This would be a set of microphones and speakers that would be installed along the border on a popular road through the region, where people could speak into one side and it would be heard on the other side of the border in the accent of that area, thereby transforming their voice in the process. It plays with the idea of accent as a differentiator, demonstrating that it is easily changeable and not something that is concretely ‘other’.



Transborder Disturbance: art piece of a border swing put forward in a gallery in Istanbul

Swing Wall from “Borderwall as Architecture” (see case studies in Appendix E).



Kielder Observatory


visitors to Kielder and people walking in the forrest park


aesthetics of border structures and signs border does not fit to the landscape


1.a.iii spectacle 1.a.v topology of the land

There is an observatory near the border where people visit to look at the stars or attend events. This would be a swing placed on the border near the observatory. People could swing from one ‘country’ to another and while they are doing so, they are able to see where they are switching. The stark switch on the more organic swing demonstrates the arbitrariness of the border itself and its non-organic representation with respect to the landscape, which shows no difference between places.



Sign representing the historical importance of the train station at Berwick upon Tweed.

Plaque representing what a building was used for during ‘The Troubles’ in Belfast.



along the M6


travelers and people who regularly drive or commute accross the border


aesthetics of border structures and signs imagined border is not real border


1.a.ii home 1.a.iv palimpsest

‘Welcome’ signs are important symbols of nationalism and they tell people when they are entering a new place. However, they don’t really tell any sort of story or history, and act like the border has always been in that place. These signs would counter that and would be put up along major roadways to be ‘welcome’ signs for where the border used to be.



Foucault’s Pendulum: uses the rotation of the earth to tell time.

Sidetrack: turntable visualization of how people who work from home spend their time.



major cities that are or used to be close to the border (Glasgow, Carlisle, etc.)


tourists to these cities as well as people who live there


border change place but leave their mark imagined border is not real border


1.a.iv palimpsest

Often times people who do not live along the border do not think about the border as part of their everyday life. This would be an installation in larger cities (such as Glasgow or Edinburgh) that would track where the border was with respect to that city over time. It’s height would parallel how far the border was from that place, show sometimes places were in England or were right next to the border even though today we think of them as very ‘Scottish’.




All of these counter-symbols are part of one coherent framework called ‘Border Stories’ that connects them all through a trail. In addition, each of these symbols is attached to a specific visualization in a postcard. These postcards explicitly tie the symbolism of the place to a personal story, thereby influencing a change towards the narrative, implicitly pushing towards a shift in the imaginary. The postcards can be found next to the symbols themselves in a structure that houses both the postcards as well as a postbox.

“The substituting power of the souvenir operates with the following analogy: as experience is to an imagined point of authenticity, so narrative is to the souvenir... That remarkable souvenir, the postcard, is characterized by a complex process of captioning and display which repeats this transformation of public into private.”



“On Longing”, Susan Stewart







when sent, two things would happen to the postcards:


Each symbol has a postbox which is tied to another specific borderland around the world, and through the postcards, border stories are shared from the ScottishEnglish to global borders. They would be sent to other border areas around the world (such as the Belfast Peace Lines, the Mexico-US border, or the Korean Demilitarized Zone, to name a few). On one side would be a counter symbol and on the other would be the narrative of the person who visited that symbol. Through partnerships with local councils, arts organizations, and tourism boards, these postcards would be gathered and displayed at an exhibition. If sustained, these partnerships could then lead to counter-symbols being created for those other borders, creating a global network of border stories through these stories, postcards, and symbols. The exhibition and partnerships would also connect border regions to one another, creating a sustained global conversation around borders and their constructed nature.


They would also be uploaded to the online platform of Border Stories, where people could interact with each of the postcards and also view the Border Stories trail. You can view more about this online platform on the next page.

image from ‘RCA: Secrets’ exhibition



The online platform of Border Stories would include several pages. The first would be a place for people to see the entire framework of Border Stories. It would be described using language of a ‘trail’, the ‘Border Stories Trail’, marketed as a way for people to get a true understanding of the Scottish-English borderlands through various interactive elements. The page would be one entry point for people to learn about this project. If they had visited one of the stops along the trail, it would also be a place to learn about the other parts of the framework they could visit. This platform would also include a feed of all the postcards sent at the various counter-symbols across the borderlands. Visitors to the site could filter the postcards they saw by where it came from or where it was sent to. They could also post a ‘virtual postcard’ which would be similar to a comment, where they could describe their own experience with borders, or anything that the postcards made them think of. The last piece of the online platform would be its reference to international exhibitions of the physical postcards that people can visit. This section would also have contact information for those who wanted further collaboration or to set up a partnership with their own borderland.






WRITE A DIGITAL POSTCARD I lived in Newcastle my entire life and I had no idea that it used to be on the border. We've always felt a little left out by England, I guess now it makes more sense.


I am from Palestine, and coming here made me realize just how similar places are even though they may look very different at first.

I really love the Scottish accent, it’s very much different from where I am from, but I now realize that even it is similar to other accents just across the border in England.


THE BORDER STORIES TRAIL places to find counter-symbols and postcards



FEEDBACK AND FURTHER WORK I able to speak to three people to get their feedback on border stories. I spoke to a museum curator living on the English side of the border, one of the founders of the Borderlands Growth Deal who lives on the Scottish side of the border, and an academic in counter-visuality, who lives in the states. Each of these people gave me a unique perspective on the project as they not only were from different areas, but also were looking at it on different scales.

GABRIELLE, MUSEUM CURATOR, TULLIE HOUSE One of the main comments that Gabrielle, the museum curator at Tullie house spoke of was the usage of the postcard as a tool for feedback. Because much of her work is receiving grants from outside organizations, she was cognizant of the fact that these could be shown not only to outsiders as a way of showing the importance of the project but also to see which particular spots people were visiting more often than others.

She also spoke about the importance of partnerships. She saw this framework working at two levels, the small-scale art installation or the higher-up council level. While she saw more benefit in the higher-level partnership, I could see a benefit of combining the types of partnerships, with both local arts based organizations and larger council areas because this would allow for both localized and generalized intervention.

DOUGLAS, POLICY ADVISOR, BORDERLANDS GROWTH DEAL Douglas connected with many of the ideas around the landscape. He saw a benefit for understanding this work in terms of modern art and the benefit that could have on people’s interaction with the environment and, therefore, their framing of the area.

One of the main criticisms that Douglas had was around this as an interactive set of pieces rather than a collaborative framework. He suggested twinning similar cities so they could learn from one another. While I understand this sentiment, I believe that the reframing of the twinning cities is an important part of the historical twins, and if it was to be based solely on city size, it would lose the ‘bordered’ aspect.

JUDAH, ACADEMIC, EASTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY Judah said he found power in the denaturalizing aspects of many of these symbols, especially with respect to the landscape itself. He suggested looking into the history of the landscape itself. For example, why is there peat moss in that particular area? What was there before it? What does that mean with respect to this framework?

Judah spoke about these counter-symbols as provocations, which he saw as “forcing a reckoning” in people’s mind about what borders could and do mean. He suggested looking at borders as interfaces rather than marginal edges, which he believed was something that could be achieved in several of these counter symbols. He also encouraged a push towards connecting this work to other borders, especially in the manifestation of the symbols themselves.


From this feedback and furthering this project, I came up with several directions for further work.

PROTOTYPING OF COUNTER-SYMBOLS It would be nice to prototype several of these countersymbols in the built environment. Some of them would need more collaboration and acceptance from larger bodies, so entering into these conversations and seeing how people respond to the symbols would help understand what works, which ones people visit and respond to, and how to further the trail with more interactive pieces.

DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS One of the things mentioned in my feedback sessions was that border stories relies on cross-border collaboration. This was seen as an overwhelmingly positive thing because it would inherently bring people from either side of the border together. As such, it would be useful to explore what exactly these partnerships would look like and how they would be formed to create the framework of these interactive elements. Because there are several partnerships that are being created across the border, it would be useful to learn from these and understand how they can be pushed and used for this framework as well.

CONNECTION TO OTHER BORDERS As an exercise, it would be useful to think about countersymbols more broadly, as they would relate to other borders. Given that I have created the taxonomy for three other borders, I could come up with a framework of border stories from counter symbols that could exist at each of those other borderlands. Because much of this project was not just based in the context of the Scottish-English borderland but also in international understandings of borders, it would be useful to expand this to other areas to test its relevance.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF VISUALS Many of the visuals are first drafts, especially as they relate to the postcards and the online platform. It would be nice to further explore these visuals and test how people respond to them. Since symbolism is a founding aspect of this project, crafting these visuals for a purpose is especially important, and further development would be necessary to take this project further.

With these directions, Border Stories could serve to be a powerful way to bring people together in the borders as well as encouraging expanded conversation about borders more generally. Hopefully through an interaction with these counter symbols, people are able to reframe borders as a performed social construct rather than an inherent phenomenon.


GENERAL REFLECTION The phenomenon of borders and bordering has been something that I have found relevant to my own life. As an immigrant of color, I have always felt that I’ve lived in a sort of borderland, one that doesn’t necessarily exist physically, but rather something that is much more ideological. I see borders as deterministic of the way society works not just with respect to nation-states, but also when it comes to other identities, such as gender, race, etc. Borders work on several levels, the most obvious and clear of them being those that surround nation-states. By denaturalizing the border here, we can start to have larger conversations about the other, more ubiquitous borders that affect our everyday lives. Ever since the 2016 US Presidential election and the subsequent attacks on the American immigration system, I have seen the degradation of my home country as a place of acceptance and its turn towards hatred, racism, and violence. The role of the border played an especially important part in this; the rhetoric around the Mexico-US wall created a sense of division grounded in an aesthetic, physical, designed object. As such, I wanted to closely investigate what this meant, not just in terms of the border as it existed in the United States, but what borders mean and perform more generally. Because this project was extremely personal, I felt a need to make some lasting change. The timing of much of this project overlapped with several border crises in the United States, which made it often feel irrelevant and arbitrary because it was not solving that immediate crisis. The phenomenon of borders seemed a daunting task in the face of these political and personal development. However, what I realized over the course of the project, was as a master’s student over the course of 12 weeks, I was never going to change the world. This project’s power instead lies in a learning experience, in uncovering my way of working, and in starting conversations.

While this project does not completely transform the world in any way, I believe it offers two aspects. The first is a reframing of a design process to include the hyper-local and hyper-global, the theoretical and experiential. If designers are just to look at specific problems one at a time, there can be no sustained, systemic change. Through undergoing this process of constantly shifting between these different levels levels, I was able to better hone my own practice and understand how to combine the local and global so that one informs the other. This process helped me exponentially as a designer, as I was able to better understand my own working style. Design usually stays in the realm of the experimental and critical theory stays in the realm of the philosophical but by combining these two, one can make more lasting systemic interventions that truly get to the root of the way things are. The second is a framing around borders that looks at them as performative design objects. Much of the conversation right now is on the immediate, day to day problems associated with borders. Because the stakes were much lower in the context of the Scottish-English borderlands, I was able to be much more playful and get to the root of the phenomenon of borders. I wasn’t solving a particular immediate problem, so I could focus on the strategy of bordering more generally. In this way, the lack of crisis almost provided a deeper analysis of the situation as it exists globally, because there was no immediate problem to ‘solve’. I could also take a step back and look at the Scottish-English border form a unique perspective, as someone who is from a country with a very different manifestation of a border but could see the same technologies of bordering at work in this context as well. I believe that Border Stories provides a first step in my understanding of border and also in my creation of a personal design process. The framing of the border put forth by this project is both playful and alternative, prompting for abolition without calling for drastic change. It is the introduction to a conversation about the socially constructed nature of our world and how design can work towards denaturalizing those constructions so that the world can be rebuilt in an inclusive, equitable, and caring way.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank the academics, politicians, scientists, artists, and designers who took time out of their busy schedules to let me interview them. Their feedback on this project helped in the framing and development. I’d also like to thank my coursemates and teaching team at the Glasgow School of Art Innovation School, with special thanks to my advisor, Elio Caccavale. This project could not be completed without the support of my friends and family, especially my parents who crossed borders years ago to give me the opportunity to be here today. Lastly, I want to express my support and solidarity with all migrants, risking their lives to cross borders daily to give themselves and their families better futures. I stand with you. I see a world where opportunity is not dependent on location.



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Between the 15th-18th of June I attended the International Conference on Penal Abolition in London. This brought together academics and activists from around the world who would define themselves as abolition. The theme for the conference was ‘abolitionist futures’. Before this point, I had known a little about abolition, but not enough to decide whether or not I could consider myself an abolitionist. The movement uses the word ‘abolition’, used in the anti-slavery movement but applies it now to the carceral state and, more recently, to immigration controls. This, I believe, is to not only make the link between incarceration and slavery but also evoke their desire for complete eradication of the practice. Abolition was started by two Black women, Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who believed that reform within prisons was not sufficient, it was only altering an already broken system. Instead, we had to end incarceration altogether, in all forms. Because of its racist and capitalist nature, the prison-industrial complex is a method of state control of poor people and people of color. The entire system is based around disadvantaging those most vulnerable people and using them as veiled slave labor for large corporations while they are incarcerated. In fact, even though we think of crime in terms of utilitarian ethics, the right and the wrong, it is actually much more fictionalized. The laws that are created are meant to draw lines between people who commit ‘crimes’ not the ‘crimes’ themselves. In this way, the ‘criminal’ is socially constructed based on who they are not on what they’ve done. For example, in the United States, in most places marijuana is still criminalized while those who are caught with drugs like opiates are sent to rehab rather than jail; those caught with marijuana are usually Black while opiate users are mostly white. In this way, the ‘war on drugs’ is not actually against ‘drugs’ but rather to criminalize people of color. Instead of using the carceral state, activists and academics at the conference spoke about an “ethics of care”, understanding how transformative, collective justice can be used to keep us safe. In this way, we support those in our communities through rehabilitation and reconciliation rather than incarceration, not only abolishing prisons, but also creating more trusting communities.


Throughout the course of the conference, they spoke of the connection between incarceration and borders. In recent years, abolition has expanded to not only include the prison-industrial complex but also to consider the abolition of all forms of state control. There has recently been a “convergence between walls and cages [and] understanding the prison as a border enables us to tie the present intensification to border fortification and expansion within long and unique histories of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism” (Loyd, 2018). In many colonized nations, the law was used as a method of control over the indigenous population, and this legacy has continued in the lack of autonomy that people of color still deal with today, especially with respect to migration and movement. In this way, these socially produced borders, are a form of racial criminalization and exclusion, differentiating ‘citizens’ from ‘outsiders’, in the same way that the carceral state differentiates between criminals and non-criminals. In other words, the same social technology is at work in the policing of borders and prisons so the abolition of prisons comes hand and hand with the abolition of borders. This can be done either through the eradication of borders or “the free movement of people and question[ing] the use of national citizenship (or other arbitrary exclusionary boundaries) to determine who gets to move where and whose social needs are prioritized over another’s” (Loyd, 2018). One particular talk during the conference that I found especially interesting was by Joshua Dubler, an academic at the University of Rochester. His talk was entitled Rikers 2034, in which he was “imagining a rikers with no jail.” In particular he was thinking about how Rikers could be memorialized using an abolitionist memorialist vocabulary. I found this relevant to my own project because . Additionally, this was just when I was thinking about dark tourism, which you can find my finding on in Appendix B, and this was a major part of thinking of these places as both touristic as well as abolitionist. One of the founding precepts of abolition is that it is anti-capitalist in nature, as the capitalist state is, in many parts, what has caused the carceral state, and this work was trying to work through that, as well as working through the different manifestations of memorialization and how it could be used for abolitionist purposes.



I was lucky enough to speak to Josh about his work and how he thought it would relate to my own project. The following is an abridged transcript of our conversation: Q: Do you think this ideas of an ‘abolitionist memorial vocabulary’ can be used in the Scottish-English border? The fact that there used to be a consequential, fortified border there that people would kill each over, that’s certainly something to play with. I guess it can simultaneously - with brexit looming, and the possibility of Scottish succession - it can be a cautionary, ‘are you sure you all want to throw this away… people can kill and die over this space too, that’s not too hard to imagine, given Northern Ireland’. And you could use memorialization to remind people of that, or architecture or design to remind people of that. There’s a kind of abolitionist echo in the border that isn’t a border. Nobody needs to show papers at that border, nobody's bodies are being contained at that border. So it cuts both ways, if one is thinking about the present relative to the past or if one is thinking about the present relative to a possible future. I’m sure this occurred to you in the first 5 minutes of this project - what would it be to build a wall there? What would it mean to build a wall there? - to graphically demonstrate the other kind of border that it could be, or a checkpoint - thinking about technologies of border crossing and non-crossing. And I guess, already there there’s a pretty rich vocabulary between the US-Mexico border and the border between Israel and the West Bank. Think about highly-fortified borders with all sorts of rituals. The different ritual between those borders for whom passage is framed as relatively unproblematic, people who move seamlessly through the border and those who are contained by the border and the border is an opportunity to subject them to their status as ‘problematic subjects’. … To an extent there’s a national memory, or bi-national memory of civic rituals. And then if you think of rituals, structures and feelings, then you’re already in a land of kind of, interesting contrasts because it seems in thinking of prison memorialization there’s a kind of half life to the potency of human suffering. These dark tourism, torture jail places, as long as it happened long enough ago, it’s ‘funny’ or something. So there’s an interesting contrast - I don’t know what the tone is of how those things are remembered or not remembered in Scotland but there is a set-up between whatever the materiality is and the rituals of border maintenance and enforcement were 600 years ago and what we picture today as being consequential borders. Those are totally, totally different, and they’re different in a way where juxtaposition can artistically make things happen if you take one and you put it in the other or take the other and put it in the one.

Q: How can you have lasting conversations around abolition? That’s precisely my question… those are the questions that I’m at. I think it can be done, I don’t exactly know how. You can’t control it; you can’t control what gets taken away. I love the holocaust memorial here that’s all the stones, children respond to it visceral as a place to play. They play hide and seek. And it’s the thing that makes me like that place otherwise I wouldn’t. If it was really like everyone went and soberly had the feelings you’re supposed to have, then I wouldn’t like it. But the fact that this other thing happens there… but I don’t know. How to connect the particular to the general… That’s one of the things from the abolitionist perspective that is always striking and makes perfect sense. These things aren’t generally. To the extent that they are not simply dark tourism and sites of grotesque pleasure, their duties are to a particular community making sense or honoring a particular past. And I guess with the stuff with the Second World War, there’s a universalist vocabulary there, around certain kinds of state violence and certain kinds of citizenship. But even with the east Germany stuff, like you say… there are general claims even if they don’t realize they are making them, but they don’t necessarily aspire to a general principle. But maybe borders are different than prisons. I think you can… the average person who would see your thing, knows about Trump and the wall, in a way that the average person who goes to a prison if they are not thinking from an abolitionist perspective, they aren’t necessarily thinking about Rikers. I don’t think very many people even imagine that it would be possible to abolish borders, but they know that borders are places where vulnerable people are humiliated and tortured, I think. Q: Do you think this idea of abolitionist memorialization can work hand in hand with anti-capitalism? All the three places I spoke about are free, but these are still species of capitalism and I’m not saying one would necessarily have to abolish capitalism to abolish borders, but probably. You could have non-capitalist tourism, depends on how you think about capitalism… The souvenir thing, it makes you understand how quickly world historical tragedy becomes kitsch. The checkpoint Charlie thing here, it’s all knick knacks, orientalist Russian soldier hats, and all that kind of stuff. And that stuff, I mean people died in living memory of those borders. So I don’t know what an abolitionist souvenir would look like. I generally assume that there’s always more of everything, but it depends on what genealogy one wants to think about. Because obviously sitting in Germany, there’s something about World War Two and the geopolitical reconfiguration afterwards I think engendered selfconscious memory production as a think. But I’m sitting in Berlin so I’m thinking about it that way. But in the states, there’s this insurgent iconoclasm that stems from the fact that the resolution of the civil war was the binary opposite of the second world war. The losers were allowed to keep all their history, and that is finally being contested. There’s clearly, a lot seems to be happening and there’s a lot to think about.


APPENDIX B: ENGAGEMENT MATERIALS The following are the three worksheets that I prompted the participants in my workshop with.

You can read more about this workshop on pages 44-49.


APPENDIX C: DARK TOURISM When thinking about how people interact with borders around the world besides crossing them, one of the major themes that came up was the idea of ‘Dark Tourism’. This is when tourists visit places of death or destruction, such as past concentration camps. These sites consist of three main characteristics, (1) communication of the site, (2) the anxiety and doubt the sites create about our modern world and, (3) the combination of education and commodification (Lennon, 2010). These characteristics reveal two conflicts: that of historical voice and that of commodification. All of these sites represent something that happened in history, a physical symbol of a past that many people have only read about. Because of this, they have to tell their history, which is not only the history of that place but also of the events that surrounded its creation. In this way, they have to tell the story of the past and because of the nature of tourism, tell a particular sensationalized story. In their retelling, they repeat a particular history, creating a “selective memory of an event that is reinforced through interpretation” (Lennon, 2010). This is particularly dangerous because often “there is [any] attempt at stylization which can marginalize and indeed trivialize the enormity of the issues being dealt with” (Lennon, 2010). These sites are the ones that are creating a collective imaginary of the event through their interpretation, as this is what outsiders often interact with. They tell a certain history rather than a full story, and in a constant re-creation of that particular story, they legitimize it, and it becomes what happened, tied to that specific place, rather than the nuanced reality of the full history of everyone. The telling of these histories in exaggerated because it is focused around tourists rather than the ordinary citizens, making it an external story, rather than an internal one.


There’s a sense of irony of a capitalist site being built on a place of torture and death. To a certain extent because these are commodified. These places are “boxed and sold to tourist seeking to touch an element of that past of division and danger” (Lennon, 2010). This is particularly problematic because rather than becoming places of healing and catharsis, these places underscore the division in the area, recreating it with every tourist visit. These locations play into the darkest elements of humanity in which there is an ‘enduring appetite’ for these places of horror and death as places of commodification and visitation. By allowing and encouraging people to visit places that have a dark history, these tourists are, to some extent, encouraging the entertainment value of horror and death. This means that rather than moving on, humanity is stuck in reliving these particular stories, and they are bound to repeat themselves. Dark Tourism has a specific relationship to borders around the world as well. There are several reasons that people would want to visit a borderland, some of which have little to do with the borderland itself; for example tourists visit the border between the US and Canada only to see Niagara Falls. For most explicit borderland visitors, however, there is a sense that this border area represents a “visual symbol of a public narrative” (Hunter, 2013). In other words, the border “combines the material and the conceptual/mental” (Sofield, 2006), allowing people to tie a specific place or object to a particular story of the border. It is rare that we are able to see a visual representation of our political landscape and values, so tourists are drawn towards these areas, especially if they represent a particular manifestation drastically different from what they are related to in their home country (Gelbman, 2010). For others, this border represents a particular homeland connection and their motivation “will move from those based in a direct personal connection… to motivations devoid of a personal connection and more strongly rooted in the novelty of the destination or the satisfaction of curiosity regarding the geographical location of the destination or the historical events associated with it” (Bigley, 2010). Similar to other examples of dark tourism, border tourism often also works to validate and symbolize a “particular heritage of conflict” (Hunter, 2013). It reiterates the distrust and violence on either side, making it seem that these two states have always been alienated from each other, and will continue to be as long as it is financially beneficial for the tourist market (Lennon, 2010). In this way, dark tourism serves to constantly re-inscribe a border as a place of conflict rather than thinking of it as a place where people can travel through and come together.

https://mashable. com/2015/11/01/dark-tourismphotos/?europe=true#F98nT9BhBuqr


APPENDIX D: ABOLITION AND VISUALITY Similar to being drawn towards it at the beginning for understanding the framing of the border, I came across abolition as a movement usually visuality as a way to counter the current public consciousness and narrative. Because of the connection I made earlier between the carceral state and immigration control, I was keen to understand how those working within prison reform view visuality as a place of intervention. Right now, it seems “the visuality of prisons and other carceral institutions configures our ability to perceive them, the available vocabularies with which to speak of them, and the contexts in which to place them” (Schept, 2014). In terms of the carceral state, these visuals hide the coercive work that the prisons are doing. Many people interested in carceral reform are currently thinking about ways in which they can “mobilize images for a ‘politically charged analysis,’” creating a countervisual ethnography (Schept, 2016). This looks for what is ‘not there’ or what is ‘cropped out’ ‘beyond the frame’. It asks the questions “What is next to it? What came before it? What is it built on top of?” (Schept, 2014) and through this gets people to question the very nature and manifestation of these places. It necessarily uncovers what is hidden, connecting, for example, the carceral state to the rural landscape of other manifestations of state power. Often times prisons are not put at the forefront of visuals and instead are hidden by the structures that made them and this counter-visuality brings them to the minds of people through uncovering their true purpose and history.

Figure from ‘Unseeing like a Prison’ by Judah Schept

I was able to speak to Judah Schept, who was a leading academic looking at the role of visuality in the carceral state. The following is an abridged transcript of our conversation: Q: What made you think of visuality as something important in terms of the carceral state? I think I actually do know, there was a particular moment for me that sort of solidified the importance of thinking about visibility and visuality and visual rendering and the limitations that what’s visible kind of imposes, so I guess the way that what’s visible is also sort of the work of ideology. So I started this project that the article that you referenced was kind of the first piece I published based on this research that’s been going on now for 6 years and from which I am currently writing a book which is just about prison growth in central Appalachia, primarily in eastern Kentucky, but central Appalachia as a region. And I think I had been, I’m trying to remember how it got started, but I remember it was the confluence of a number of factors. I was frustrated with the available and really sort of common sense analyses in my discipline, like in criminology and sociology of punishment for understanding prison growth. So where I come from disciplinarily, it’s primarily about, if you are a really traditional criminologist, it’s about thinking about fluctuations of crime rates and if you are a more critical criminologist or sociologist it’s about thinking about punishment regimes. Both of which are important, particularly the latter. But what I was seeing when I began this project in Kentucky was there’s no neat relationship between changes in how people view punishment and the growth of prisons in these regions, so it doesn’t affect Kentucky or sentencing policy or anything like that. So I was struck by the significance of prisons being built in such remote places so no one sees them. And even in those rural places they are often, they’re built, I think as I talked about in that article, they’re built out of the visual register, like on a mountain-top removal site and things like that. So I was beginning to grapple with what that means and I was talking with a friend of mine whose photos are in that article, who’s a visual artist. She’s a photographer and a professor of photography at Georgia State in Atlanta and I was just struggling to name that as a problem. The thing that you are naming, I was not trained in critical visual studies, I’m not an artist, it’s not something that’s particularly available to me, but I was beginning to kind of think about it and Jill, my friend, who I was about to head up there with, at the very beginning stages of this, was like, ‘this is a central analytical problem in photography that Bart and Susan Sontag and all those people grapple with’, which is the limited visual register, and it’s something that other people talk about in slightly different terms too, like Judith Butler and other kind of social theorists when they talk about it with respect to representation, what gets left out of the frame, how representation tailor the analyses that are available, whatever.


This is a long winded way of me saying that it was a process for me to even realize that thinking about how we study, how we view prisons, literally how we see them, was deeply connected to how we understand them and the analyses we have to understand them. That was years ago, and now I am thinking a lot about it and looking specifically at the materiality between, the continuity of the landscape between prisons and old coal mine facilities. And for me, what’s been so helpful to do that, to think counter-visually, to use that terminology is, it feels sort of freeing, I’m not actually thinking in this project so much about crime or punishment as I am thinking about, what are the cues in space that might help us think more acutely and historically about the prison. So, they’re built on top of old coal mines they’re built next to landfills and trash incinerators. So the project has become much more, really pivots on thinking about, thinking from those places of interface, so where the prison interfaces with what is next to it in the landscape. So that’s a bit about where I’m at with it. And to your original point, there’s a lot to me that resonates when thinking about the relationship between borders and cages. Q: How do you think palimpsest in the landscape affects visuality? I think that’s so central to whatever we’d call this, an abolitionist or counter-visual approach, doing just that. So for me it’s been, it’s forced me to also think about my method. Because ethnography, at least in the sociological and anthropological tradition, in which I have the most training, it’s pretty empirical. You examine what’s in front of you. So if we’re talking about layers in the landscape, ethnography, at least in the empirical sense is not best suited to doing that. So describing, ‘oh there’s a prison here’, it’s not necessarily looking under the prison, and therefore what alternative futures could have been. So for me it’s really important to look at that and say okay, ‘what does that mean’ if I’m committed to that method that we’re describing and that kind of politics, how does that change the way I go about studying it. So for me it’s forced me to, well it’s forced me to, like we were talking about before, think visually, and what visual cues are there that speak to those palimpsests, but it’s also pushed me to the archives, to do histories of the places, and to think about words on the pages, to be able to point to what’s underneath in addition to, if possible, use photography as the way to show what you’re talking about, those layers. Even if it’s not a cross-section, I don’t know if that’s possible but doing this cross-section of layers underneath the border, or the prison or the wall or whatever, but absent of being able to do that, what are the cues that you can photograph or document or whatever, in some other way, that speak to that same phenomenon.

Q: What are ways that these ‘counter-visuals’ affect the narrative? So thinking about differences… and it could be narratives from folks that live in border towns, who live close to the border on either side, and I can see that going in a number of different directions, if they are fairly similar it could point to how arbitrary and unnecessary borders are. If they are fairly different and are different based on inequality it could also point to how borders are arbitrary but determine life courses and premature death and things like that. So even if you can’t see the border it’s someone’s narrative, that gives you the sense of meaning of the border. I’d also be interested in talking about what are the… just to use as an example, so when they extend a segment of a fence, what are the narratives that the feds use to justify that in a local community. Do they deputize that community and say ‘your community and your land is playing a central role in security?’ In the same way that rural communities, rural communities home to prisons aren’t often deputized in the same way. Prison officials don’t often seem to say ‘house this prison and your community is going to be playing a central role in the war on crime’. It’s much more narrow. It’s purely an economic sell, even as that economic sell is super dubious if not right disingenuous, prisons do not often bring money to these places, but that’s the line. And I’m not sure if that would be the same line for a border wall, but I think that that’s fascinating. Q: What are ways of distributing these ‘counter-visuals’ to people so that they see something in a new light? It’s really tough, to me it seems like it’s really moment of crisis that makes folks that don’t have to think about it, I think that’s probably not incidental. There’s a reason that prisons are built in rural places and there’s a reason that borders are heavily demarcated or not. But my guess is they would if there was a crisis, the way that right now, everybody here, and I’m talking mainstream democrats who probably never heard or used the word abolition outside the context of the abolition of slavery are now calling for the abolition of ice because the crisis of the border and the work of social movements who have worked to make that more than just a hashtag have made that sayable. It’s become in the realm of legitimate political discourse. And so I don’t exactly know how we do that as scholars and artists, that are politically committed, I’m not exactly sure, I don’t know if there’s anything that we could do anything that could reach that sort of scale - to show that there are actual places and actual people in those places that are conducting surveillance. This is to say that I don’t know what the actual mechanisms are by which you do that, but I think that it is artists and activists who do it best.




(imagining, walls, architecture) Excavated Objects from a Post-Apartheid Palestine is a project by Leopold Lampert, an architect and editor for the Funambulist, a bi-monthly magazine exploring the relationship of the built space to people’s bodies. Excavated Objects imagines a sort of ‘time capsule’ in which the technologies of division constructed in current day Palestine have been dismantled. In a set of objects, which include photographs, postcards, and maps, a picture is drawn of Palestine as it exists without an explanation of how these came to be. In this way, a future is constructed through these objects, allowing people to imagine a different manifestation of Palestine.


I was also able to speak to Leopold Lampert about my project, and the following is an abridged transcript of our conversation: Q: How do you think about border zones? I suppose that my own take would be much more about when it comes to borders, is maybe to consider what I call the ‘thickness of the line’ which I think is a generative concept, it is a mathematical possibility but in reality you see how the lines that are traced on paper… a pen on a map… this mathematical line is necessarily gaining thickness. I find it a generative concept but that doesn’t mean that it’s an emancipatory concept because I think when the particularity of the line is that it is also a space of lawlessness it is a space where you can volatilize it, a sort of space where you deliver it from the law. You can think of the demilitarized zone or an anarchist space. But it’s also a space where you have no rights, so it’s also the space of rightlessness. So to me it’s a very interesting zone to engage with. It’s time to engage with its dangerousity and the design might be something else. Q: How does architecture and design serve a role/purpose when it comes to borders? The best design in relation to a wall for me is revolving, it’s kind of a provocation but also the ideology is very very simple. And that’s also something that I find remarkable in architecture; how incredibly easy it is to enforce the most extreme forms of violence through architecture. In terms of the border wall, it’s so easy. You literally have to trace a line on a map, say this should become a wall and it’s a done deal. And that’s why in our politics we have to stop talking about it as a neutral instrument… I don’t think architecture is this neutral instrument that you can use for the quote unquote ‘the good’ or ‘the bad’. I think you just take this very trivial thing… it’s very easy to do evil with architecture, it’s much much harder to actually use it against dominant forces. And that’s what it’s so hard and we’re so scared by it and I think we should be scared by it. The question of the border is interesting from a nonarchitectural standpoint. Somehow these borders aren’t really clear cut. And they are complicated, there might be an uncontrolled mile of border but actually it’s because they are really close to each other. So these borders are porous and undefined but exist nonetheless. And I think that is what we should talk about when we’re talking about borders: how do you, when you’re standing next to someone you absolutely know that there is a border between you two but you could not trace it or know exactly where you stop and where this other person begins. Thinking about it in terms of atmospheres could be a generative idea.

[Border walls] have a very simple political ideology, almost more simple than the crudeness that is built. Not saying that fascism is not complex in our brains but the border walls embody a political program that is as simple as its architecture. To be very clear, when I talk about weaponized architecture, I don’t necessarily mean architecture used as a weapon of the state but also how there can be a resistive architecture. For me, for it to be successful, it has to fully embrace the violence, we cannot shy away from it. Q: Can you talk some about your project ‘Objects from a Post-Apartheid Palestine’? I think it’s naive but is it’s strategy because it’s about triggering imaginaries which is a little bit like what afrofuturism is doing; the ability to just suggest a vision of such a future. So the reason that they are objects that are excavated and not projects that have been done is because precisely they are very naive, they have a lot of problems, they are definitely are produced by a new state that for sure will be problematic - we should be very cautious about a state machine in general. So that’s why I present the project as objects that we found to suggest this vision without necessarily taking ownership or responsibility of what those projects would be like. And it’s also something I did, also asking several people living in Palestine, telling them forget everything, what do you think is the idea outcome… many people who I kind of knew would be a Palestine from the Jordan Sea, with everyone sharing equal rights in this territory, but actually there have been some other answers, this freedom of circulation was very much emphasized but other people were saying that there could not be a full reconciliation, we should just be able to circulate everywhere. That’s quite an interesting question to ask. If it’s not asked in the right way, it could be disrespectful of the hardship, but I ask only people I know very well. Architecture is not about peace, it’s about conflict.



(intervention, walls, symbolism) Fracture Edit is a project by Rhiannon Williams, while she was a masters student as Central Saint Martins’ Narrative Environment course. She was part Cypriot, and so was drawn to the contentious border between Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus. Her own creative practice is that of poetry, so she decided to ask people on both sides of the border to write poetry about how they felt about the division and then displayed these as a re-visualization of the area. I spoke to Rhiannon briefly, and she told me that when she visits the border, she notices that there is a certain iconography of the border that “keeps the grief alive”. In this way, the tension itself is manifested in the objects that are on the border. Through her project she wanted to create physicalized inscriptions at the border that were uplifting and questioning rather than focused on grief. These poems were inscribed textually at the border itself, demonstrating that “something fruitful can still come from decay”. The materiality of where and how these poems were written came from the traditions in Cyprus, giving it a contextual feature, but Rhiannon believes a similar structure can be used in other fracture areas as well. Her work, in its counter narrative aspects, spoke to my own findings in my project and encouraged me to think about how



(engagements, walls, architecture) In 2016, Resolve Collective was started by Akil Scafe-Smith and Gameli Ladzekpo. They are work on several projects relating to architecture, technology, and the built environment. They have a particular interest in the physical structure of walls and how they can be used as a place of convergence and conversation rather than division. They have started a project ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ which brings together a wide variety of participants including community groups, students, artists, etc., to asks people to reimagine the ‘wall’. They have created several prototypes of walls that are interactive, bringing people together through conversations on the wall itself. I felt drawn towards this reframing of the physical structure of the wall and its manifestation as a symbol and place, restructuring the way that people interacted with it. When I talked to Akil, he talked about how they were trying to “break down the archetypal element of the wall, deconstructing our visceral relationship to the wall.” We all know what walls are - we interact with them on a daily basis - so everyone can think about how they function and use that understanding to reimagine how they might manifest themselves.



(intervention, walls, architecture) Published by Ronald Rael in 2017, Borderwall as Architecture is a project and accompanying text which is both artistic and intellectual, that reimagines what the Mexico-US border could look like. It takes both realistic interventions that actually happen (such as border volleyball) as well as more imaginative ones (such as a border house). He writes that “the only way to address an architecture of violence… was to dismantle it through a complex set of rules that direct architects and builders on both sides to attempt to create a series of constructions on the wall that eventually force it into an imbalance that theoretically topples the wall.” From each of these imaginings, Rael created a ‘souvenir’ of sorts, some a snow globe, others trinkets, to get people to think about the border as a place not only to visit but a place for these interactions between communities. This project not only connects the idea of tourism to the border but also reimagines the border itself.



(walls, intervention, symbolism) Borrando la Barda is a performance piece at the end of the Mexico-US border as it enters into the sea, which paints the wall as if it was sky. This makes it seem like the wall no longer exists at this point. This particular project takes the physicalized border wall and keeps it the way that it is, but shows that it doesn’t have to exist in that aesthetic format. Additionally, it finds ways of intervening within the structure of the wall itself. It is with this small intervention using nothing but paint, that the wall is restructured to be something that is much more ‘seen through’ rather than divisive in nature.



(imagining, politics, symbolism) The United Microkingdom (UmK) is a design fiction that divides the UK into four areas, each of which has its own experimental governance depending on a certain ideology (the Digitarians, the Bioliberals, the Anarcho-evolutionists, and the Communo-nuclearist). It is a way to think about different types of governance for a particular nation. This project images several parts of each area’s governance including transportation, technology, environmental regulation, and energy generations. UmK rethinks the entire structure of the United Kingdom, pushing each area to the bounds of its political manifestation.



(intervention, politics, walls) The Political Equator considers the area between the 30th and 36th parallels as a particular ‘zone of conflict’ which is where many of the most contentious borderlands exists. It takes the Tijuana-San Diego border as its starting point, wrapping around to several other contested areas including Palestine, Kashmir, and the Korean DMZ Zone. In this way, the political equator connects these hostile border areas under one framework. It also includes a cross-border conference located in the Tijuana-San Diego border zone.



(postcards, politics, intervention) Me and EU is a book of postcards designed by UK creatives and then sent across Europe post Brexit referendum to connect with people all over the European continent. It was a way for the people who felt they wanted to stay in the union to express their opinion through these visual postcards while also connecting them to individual people through the method of the postcard and storytelling. This was a particularly powerful way of bringing people together under this shared motivation while also exploring varied symbols and stories about the value of the European Union to certain people living in the UK.



(postcards, imagining, intervention) Postsecret is an ongoing project where people send their deepest secrets on one side of a postcard to an address and they are anonymously posted to an online platform. The platform is updated regularly and allows for people to not only share their secrets through catharsis but also for people to get a view of what other people are like, possibility realizing that their secret is the same as someone else’s. This sending of stories allows for a sense of community to be built, which I was drawn to for my own project. There’s also a certain dark psychological element to the entire framework, where people can be voyeurs on other people’s secrets and see the darker side of society through these stories.

Border Stories  
Border Stories