Borders, Media, and the Crisis Imaginary

260A :  20th Century Literature
Spring 2023
Class No: 30873
6331 Dwinelle
Debarati Sanyal & Rhiannon Welch
2:00 - 4:59 PM

This team-taught course challenges the rhetoric of border ‘crisis’ through an investigation of visual media and multidisciplinary theory. Our primary works will include feature-length narrative and documentary films, as well as experimental media and installations that convey the complex operations of contemporary borderscapes and myriad forms of resistance and refusal. We will consider theories of biopolitics/necropolitics, racialized imperial histories and their afterlives, border theory, the intersections of natural elements (water, soil, air) and media. Additional sites of engagement include the critical and creative resources of postcolonial theory and Black thought. Among the questions we will explore are: How do testimonies by migrants and their representations resist the EU border’s violence, historicize the refugee “crisis,” and convey new modes of becoming or belonging? How do contemporary border technologies and policies reanimate histories of racialized and imperial violence? What forms of dissent, becoming and belonging are taking shape at borders? How do we understand poiesis – as in making, self-fashioning, world-building– as lived practices as well as representations that stage the power of life to endure and escape the border’s power over life? What are the possibilities and limits of humanitarian approaches and human rights discourses on refugees–from the Sahara to the Mediterranean, from Calais to Ukraine? Theoretical works to include: Sandro Mezzadra, Christina Sharpe, Rinaldo Walcott, Miriam Ticktin, Achille Mbembe, Janet Roitman, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Rosi Braidotti, and Roberto Esposito, among others. Knowledge of French and/or Italian preferred, but not required.

Students may enroll either through Italian Studies or French; course counts as an elective (290) toward the DE in Critical Theory. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a Spring conference on borders and media.