The IAFOR Academic Review | Volume 1 | Issue 4
Editorial Committee Introduction
One of the central missions of The International Academic Forum or IAFOR is to provide avenues for academics and researchers to be international, intercultural and interdisciplinary. One of the ways in which we do this is through our in-house magazine Eye, our various conference proceedings, our Journals, and now beginning in 2015 are our special editions of the IAFOR International Academic Review. In this edition of the IAFOR International Academic Review we the editorial committee bring together a selection of the most interesting contributions from our Conferences with respect to the discussion of the Borderlands. The Borderlands incorporates a conscious rejection of the implied inevitability and racial hierarchy of Turner’s concept of the frontier. It is the contested boundaries between colonial domains and transcends the geographic, metaphoric and the historiographic. The papers selected by the editorial committee for this special edition certainly reflect the international, intercultural and interdisciplinary approach that lies at the heart of both IAFOR and Cultural Studies.
Sansanee Chanarnupap from Thaksin University, Thailand advances the argument in her paper Crossing the Boundaries of ‘Home’ that belonging, loyalty and sense of attachment are not parts of a zero-sum game based on a single place. Chanarnupap considers that ‘Home’ is not necessarily a singular place. Home may be lived in the tension between the given (where we were born) and the chosen (where we migrated), then and now, here and there. When examining and comparing the connections between young Thai skilled migrants in Australia and at home in Thailand Chanarnupap suggests that migrants continue to retain strong bonds of emotion, loyalty and affiliation with the homeland. Ties to their homeland have led these trans-migrants to live dual lives, speak two languages, and have homes in two countries. The paper considers that when migrants live their lives across national borders, they may challenge a long-held assumption about membership and belonging. The lived experiences of Thai Australians suggest that migrants will not simply cut their ties to homeland, nor does it take away from migrants’ ability to contribute to and be loyal to their host country. Chanarnupap argues that integration of Thai migrants into Australian society, while maintaining their Thai-ness and ties to Thailand are a salutary corrective to the calls for a ‘one nation, one culture, one language, one state, one citizenship’ that has been part of contemporary white Australian political discourse and that the perception of having two homelands does not arguably pose a category of risk or crisis for the country of new settlement.
Kathleen Fairbanks Rubin, in her personal auto-ethnography Owning Multiple and Complex Belongings in the Borderlands recounts the process of developing her own agency out of a borderland life-world formed amongst multiple geographic sites. Fairbanks Rubin uses self-reflection and research to make explicit a functional in-between to discover the space where she belongs. Through Gloria Anzaldúa’s work, literature from border and cultural studies, identity formation and her own qualitative research, Fairbanks Rubin analyzes the complexities of this space. Her presented narratives illustrate a spectrum of belonging and of alienation, unpredictable and frequent mobility, and unrecognized loss. As a child she recalls crossing the border from the U.S. to Mexico daily to attend school, learning differing cultural rules and developing a tolerance for ambiguity and living in Mexico City at age nine, she fluctuated between being Mexican and an expat. At thirteen, and nearly a Mexican teen, Fairbanks Rubin moved to the U.S and for two years added a rural, Midwestern, US identity before returning to my birthplace in urban California. This early life experience of the borderlands manifested in her adulthood, a reflexive and sudden awareness of an encompassing image: an internal convivial borderland ambiance around and between my distinct cultural identities. Fairbanks Rubin considers that this holistic redefinition gave open access to her border person identity and mindset, making available a rich and ample resource for bridging political, social, organizational and individual boundaries in all aspects of her life. Fairbanks Rubin’s story and its analysis offer’s an alternative to categorical identity norms with a single belonging place. She concludes that by sharing these possibilities contributes to understanding the knowledge base, abilities and skills available to other border people and to the increasing numbers of those with multipart cultural identities in a globalized world.
In his paper Borderlands – Exploring Commonalities and Overcoming Challenges in Sarawak Holger Briel reminds us that most national borders are different from natural borders. National borders are inherited borders, but always constructed – not given – under certain historic conditions and with specific agendas in mind – economic, political, or cultural and all of these are constituted by specific narratives, which hamper transit and crossings for many others. Briel gives us the example of the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan, a place where documentation is required for many a potential traveller. Using an oral history methodology to underpin his study, Briel points out places such as Sarawak and Kalimantan highlight the importance of oral heritage when there exists a cultural setting where much history and knowledge is traded down in oral form. His presentation focuses on their existing shared inherited border, one imposed on the people living along it by foreign powers, now long gone, who had specific colonial and economic agendas and how the narratives created and analysed create counter-narratives to repeated official histories expounded on both sides of its border.
The Hostess at the Border: An Emergent Anachronism by Elena Knox of The University of New South Wales writes on the Actroid range of robotic androids was launched in Japan. Elena Knox is a media/performance artist as well as researcher whose works propose and disrupt embodiments of gender, interrogating how women are performed and perform themselves in the varied media and contexts of our age. Knox writes that despite the 1970 Mori theory of the so-called Uncanny Valley, Actroids are designed to appear and behave as humanlike as possible so as to render them as familiar as possible, thus presaging a future of belonging, of an ethically viable sociocultural identity that is also a re-inscription of stereotypically gendered cultural narratives and attributes, of the machinic ‘women.’ Her paper posits that as a distilled marker of cosmopolitan hospitality, ‘hostesses’ are also gatekeepers at borders with respect to the locally and globally marginalized and argues that hospitality is the basis of all culture, but cannot exist. In this sense, paradoxically, they are ‘human’. According to Knox the routinely gendered hostess figure, capable only of a chronic and controlled performance and embodiment, is anachronistically emerging at the vanguard of futuristic design. She is being embedded in a new episteme, as our most advanced humanoid machines are shaped in her familiar image.
Timothy Erik Ström a doctorial student at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia contextualizes the Borderlands within his paper Frontiers in Google Maps: Commodification and Territory in the Borderlands. Ström sees Google Inc., the developer of Google Maps as a very powerful multinational corporation who can generate a vast majority of their profits from advertising. He considers that Google have commodified language by creating a global linguistic market which provides the revenue stream for their expanding array of products. For example Google Maps is a hugely influential website, with apparently has one billion unique users per month. Ström’s paper examines the ‘borderlands’ of Google Maps in two respects; firstly by examining how the company depicts disputed borders and secondly by analysing their policy and using examples from Google Maps itself, his paper problematizes how Google presents different maps to different users. Ström argues that—despite the company’s claims—Google Maps are not ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’, but rather their maps are fundamentally political. From this Ström considers the ‘borderlands’ in a more figurative sense. He reasons that with Google Maps pushing the frontier of cyberspace further into embodied space, the corporation is therefore leading the charge in terms of reterritorialising both space and cyberspace, and thus pulling them both into the circuits of capital accumulation.
Michael Liam Kedzlie
Editorial Committee Member
The IAFOR International Academic Review