border sensing: EL PASO-JUAREZ
General informality: The post 9-11 discourse has lead the Pentagon to a strict redefinition of its border “Atlas”, re-conceptualizing the northern and southern hemisphere into “functioning core” and the “non-integrating-gap” respectively. It is precisely along the border that many of the most contested critical thresholds of the current socio-political geography exist. These are spaces that are much complex and cannot be defined by a simple dichotomy. They are spaces of overlaps and hybridization, spaces of flow with a constant exchange and interaction of bodies, work, materials, capital, law and politics, identities etc. In this regard, Michael Dear talks about transborder citizens; or the concept of a “Third Nation”.
This typical “socioeconomic and cultural osmosis” of the border regions lead to a set of inequalities that may be intensified by a tightening of restrictions. As such the development of informal settlements, also called “colonias” along the border, is not rare. The concept of the border can then move away from the idea of fortification and enclave, leading and focusing onto a world of everyday lived experiences and survival.
Informality- as a response to formal determinism.
The frontier: “We are the front line” . The conquest. Neocolonialism linked to the post-colonial mentality of the border? “La mision civilatrice”, the mission to civilize, to order and formalize the “Other”, resulting in hegemony, segregation, disparities, hierarchy, and perhaps even violence and criminalization.
The fence/wall: a “horrific beauty”. It is frightening to think of this particular fence as a beautiful object. It cuts and molds to the landscape, accentuating, challenging or mimicking the contours of the land; angular steel contrasting to the nature…yet one cannot ignore the power of the socio-political context surrounding. It is an object, defining and redefining boundaries…perhaps irrelevant in the psycho-geography already created. It is a contradiction in itself.
It follows a strict metering, layering and material gradation; different properties of transparency, different joints and connections.
It has a categorization: urban to urban or urban to rural, pedestrian, vehicles, visible or non-visible.
It transforms in height, length, porosity, and strength depending on various strategies. Depending on security and surveillance, the fence will become lighter, allowing light, sight and life to filter, framing but not blocking one side from the other.
It redefines a landscape on each side it delineates. A sectional difference accentuates the distinction to “the other”.
It is linear and infinite to the eyes, but stops.
It is impenetrable and imposing, yet opens with a key.
It is continuous yet can be perturbed.
It has vegetation growing on one side and spilling on the other. How is this defined? What exactly does this mean in the relationship between one and “the other”?
It is layered; sometime achieving 4 layer: mesh, panels, lights, cameras and humans…
The wall is to be notice on one side more than the other. Who’s wall is this?
-Surveillance: repetition, filtering, and intimidation. A clear demarcation of policing and control.
-Erasure: the land next to the fence is constantly smoothed and, wiped from any trace, only to find any new imprints.