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Design, Translation, Citizenship: Reflections on the Virtual (De)Territorialisation of the US-Mexico Border

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:27 authored by Cynthia Weber
Taking Zygmunt Bauman and Etienne Balibar's reflections on translation as its point of departure, this article considers how the practice of translation operates through the discourse and practice of 'design'. Specifically, it considers how design translates the US-Mexico border region into both a territorializing topography of cruelty where violence directed against undocumented migrants is so extreme that it appears to us to be worse than death and into a virtual deterritorializing topography of civility where a collective participation in public practices to assist undocumented migrants is possible. It does this by analyzing US defensive designs (US border fence, surveillance) that inhibit the free flow of people across this border versus design projects by Jud Werthein (Brinco/Jump), Ricardo Dominguez et al (Transborder Immigrant Tool), and Robert Ransick (Casa Segura/Safe House) that enable the safer passage of undocumented migrants crossing through this border region. It concludes by arguing that what is provocative about these designs is how they place border subjects in what might be called the 'almost geographies' of almost mobility, almost legality, almost hospitality, almost cruelty, and almost civility. In so doing, these designs go some way toward demonstrating how virtual deterritorializing practices of translation might make it possible 'to "appropriate" or "inhabit" a transnational political space and transform it into a new public sphere' (Balibar, 2006:7) while at the same time materializing many of the 'almost civilities' that are also 'almost cruelties' that are activated in any call Balibar's included for us to 'become active citizens again' (Balibar, 2003:76).


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  • Published


Environment and Planning D: Society and Space









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  • International Relations Publications

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