Theorizing from the Borders: Shifting to Geo- and Body-Politics of Knowledge

European Journal of Social Theory 9 (2):205-221 (2006)
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‘Borders’ will be in the twenty-first century what ‘frontiers’ where in the nineteenth. Frontiers were conceived as the line indicating the last point in the relentless march of civilization. On the one side of the frontiers was civilization; on the other, nothing; just barbarism or emptiness. The march of civilization and the idea of the frontiers created a geographic and bodygraphic divide. Certain areas of the planet were designated as the location of the barbarians, and since the eighteenth century, of the primitives. In one stroke, bodies were classified and assigned a given place on the planet. But who had the authority to enact such a classification, and what was the logic of that classification? Furthermore, the classification of the world by region, and the link established between regions and people inhabiting them, was parallel to the march of civilization and companions of it: on the other side of the epistemic frontiers, people do not think or theorize; hence, one of the reasons they were considered barbarians.



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Walter Mignolo
Duke University