Weber C, 2012, "Design, translation, citizenship: reflections on the virtual (de)territorialization of the US – Mexico border" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30(3) 482 – 496
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Design, translation, citizenship: reflections on the virtual (de)territorialization of the US – Mexico border
Received 28 May 2010; in revised form 26 July 2011
Abstract. Taking Zygmunt Bauman and Étienne Balibar’s reflections on translation as its point of departure, this paper 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 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 Judí Werthein (Brinco/Jump), Ricardo Domínguez 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 reflecting on the limits of translation. Specifically, it considers how the always incompleteness yet overloadedness of translation—the ‘almost’ of translation—means that the virtual deterritorializing designs discussed in this paper place border subjects in positions 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, as Étienne Balibar puts it, “to ‘appropriate’ or ‘inhabit’ a transnational political space and transform it into a new public sphere” while at the same time materializing many of the “almost civilities” that are also “almost cruelties” that are activated in any call—including Balibar’s—for us to become active citizens again.
Keywords: design, citizenship, translation, borders, sovereignty, mobility, hospitality, Etienne Balibar, Brinco, Transborder Immigrant Tool, Casa Segura, topography of cruelty, topography of civility, labor geography, electronic civil disobedience
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References 61 references, 10 with DOI links ()
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