Borders, Walls, and Boundaries as sites of Struggle, Collaboration, and Justice 

Organizers: Tal Nitsán (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Yolanda Moses (University of California, Riverside).

The reality in which we exist, nurture and maintain relationships, as well as create and disseminate knowledge, is shaped, marked and defined by layers of ongoing and intersecting conflicts. Borders, walls and social boundaries are often erected to separate individuals and groups and maintain and reproduce structures of power that shape and nurture conflicts. While these are often seen as barriers, this panel suggests changing the way we view borders and address them as sites of potential meetings, and as such, sites of struggle, collaboration, and justice (or equity and wellbeing).

Borders mark the beginning and the ending of locations, spaces and spheres. In the most popular form they mark the separation between national territories: often, agreed upon, other times, contested. As such, they are markers of conflict and/or its resolution.

As markers of territories, borders shape and embody a sense of inside/outside, safety and danger, not/belonging. Hence, their impact goes beyond the physical, territorial sense. Borders mark cultural practices and social norms (including legislation), structures and hierarchies. They can be viewed and unpacked as sites of control, creation of group/national identities – marking strangers and erasing inner (socio-cultural) heterogeneity. Their internalization is often marked by different bodily compartment (of different agents, at different locations).

The feminist project in anthropology and other disciplines has challenged the naturalized separation between the private and the public spheres, and between diverse identity markers (such as nationality, race, age, sexual orientation, body ableness and the ways in which they intersect). Drawing on that, in this session we challenge naturalized borders and their function as well as their impact on shaping gender relations and expressions.

We will address questions such as: Who draws borders? Who benefits from having them and at what cost? (fear, violence, human capital, everyday safety). What happens on the ground when they cut into the life of families, schools, and livelihood? Does it also allow a sense of autonomy and cohesion? Can borders—as markers of territory or culture — be undermined and challenged? If so, what kind of consequences are there to be expected? What kind of encounters—human, institutional, cultural—are enabled and prevented through borders? Are borders fixed, or do they have a level of porosity—and does it vary in respect to one’s social location and temporalities? What roles play border-crossing and border-checkpoints as sites of regulation, control, exchange and flow in naturalization and challenging borders? How does looking at (as well as touching, hearing, smelling) physical borders impact the ways in which we understand, analyze and record the sociopolitical reality? Which voices and experiences are enhanced—and even uncovered—by the walled spatial reality, and which are further silenced? What / how can we learn from doing ethnography of borders (and walls)? How do we write walls we observe so we maintain their multi dimension impact on the social and physical world around us? How do we write walls (and borders) in a way that encourages us—and others—to view them as opportunities for social transformation?

Interested participants are invited to submit a proposed title and 250-word abstract to Tal Nitsán ( and Yolanda Moses ( by March 19. Decisions on panel inclusion will be made by March 25.