Struggles for self-determination in Kashmir and radical anti-capitalist collectivities in Tijuana came together in “The Armed Border: Gender, Sexuality, Biopolitics, Violence,” a Mellon Research Initiative in Comparative Border Studies event exploring citizenship in border spaces.
Mona Bhan (Associate Professor of Anthropology at DePauw University) and Sayak Valencia (professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte) spoke at the October 28 event to launch the second year of Comparative Border Studies programming on the theme “Mobility, Militarization, Containment.”
Other events coming up this week include:
- Wednesday, November 2: “Borders, (Im)mobility, Youth: Photo-Testimonies of Youth From Knights Landing/ Fronteras, (In)movilidad, Juventud: Foto-Testimonios de Jóvenes Desde Knights Landing,” 3:00-5:00 p.m. in 3114 Hart Hall. A presentation by Las Ramonas & Pueblo Unido and an exhibit of photo-testimonies displayed in the Chicana/o Studies Department’s second-floor hallway in Hart Hall.
- Thursday, November 3: “On Containment and Coyotaje: Critical Approaches to Human Smuggling,” 10:00-12:00 p.m. in Voorhies 126. A presentation and conversation between Gabriella Sánchez (University of Texas, El Paso) and Luigi Achilli (European University Institute, Florence).
“The Armed Border” presentations were structured to produce conversations across borders by pairing Bhan’s research in Kashmir with Valencia’s work in Tijuana and pre-circulating their scholarship to the Comparative Border Studies listserv (readings are also available on their website). The event was moderated by Christina Jo Pérez, the new Mellon Comparative Border Studies Visiting Assistant Professor, who joins Maurice Stierl in his final year in that position. In addition to teaching courses on “Queer of Color Critique,” and “Sexualities, Immigration, and Detention,” Pérez is working on her project, Bodies on the Line: Violence, Disposable Subjects, and the US-Mexico Border Industrial Complex, which interrogates how discourses of Mexican migrants as racialized, gendered, and hypersexualized “deviants” normalize violence against border crossers.
Bhan presented on her research in the occupied-territory of Kashmir, where the Indian government is building a mega eclectrodam on the Neelum-Jhelum River that will flood Kashmiri towns. The talk highlights the Headrace Tunnel, designed to transport waters for the dam, as a “technosocial assemblage that will increase immobility,” and “illuminate the ways people living along the India/Pakistan border experience connectivity and belongingness.”
Bhan also positions the dam as part of progressive development projects meant to bring so-called “alienated youths” in Kashmir into the fold of Indian modernity. “Alienation,” she explained, “is a justification to use development to reframe a long struggle for self-determination in Kashmir, promised since 1947.”
Valencia is the author of Capitalismo Gore (Paidós, México, 2016/ Melusina, Barcelona, 2010), and of numerous articles including “Tijuana Cuir” (Denmark, 2014) and “Capitalismo gore y necropolítica en México contemporáneo” (UAM, Madrid, 2012). Valencia chose to present in Spanish in order to preserve the complexities of her theorization of the concept of cuirdadanía that she and her collaborators developed “como contestación y contraficción critíca frente a la idea normativa y excluyente de ciudandanía / as an opposition and as a contra-fiction critique against the normative and exclusive idea of citizenship.” Cuirdadanía puts together cuir (an approximate concept of “queer” in the U.S.) with ciudadanía/citizenship to explain a particular cross-border, cuir identity formed by biopolitics, necropolitics, and the embodied experiences of living in borders that go beyond demographic or ethnic distinction.
Valencia explained: “La cuirdadanía es una invitación a tomar una posición política desde una colectividad no desde una identidad que ya no reproduzca de manera sumisa el proyecto neoliberal y heteropatriarcal disfrazado de proyecto democrático y ciudadano sino que en cambio construya un común que sostenga nuestras vidas como cuirdadanxs. / Cuirdadanía is an invitation to take a political stand from a collectivity not from an identity that no longer reproduces in a submissive way the neoliberal project and heteropatiachal disguised as a democratic and citizen project but instead builds a common ground that sustains our lives as cuirdadanxs.”
The event concluded with a series of questions from the audience that drew together the shared concerns of Bhan and Valencia on the spatial aspects of sovereignty, the targeting of youths in border zones, and counter-imaginaries in border spaces.
If you are interested in joining the Mellon Comparative Border Studies Research Initiative, contact either of the Visiting Assistant Professors (Christina Jo Pérez and Maurice Stierl) or the co-principal investigators Robert Irwin, Chair of the Graduate Group in Cultural Studies and Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis.
– Stephanie Maroney, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies