Spring 2022 Colloquium
Wed, February 9 | 3:30pm | 575 McCone
Transversal borderwork and its agents: mobility regimes and urban divisions in two African cities
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC Merced
This talk empirically develops and critically assesses Sassen’s concept of transversal bordering as a means of understanding the co-constitution of spatial division at geopolitical boundaries and in urban built environments. In geometry, transversal lines pass through two or more other lines in the same plane at two distinct points. Transversals are used to assess the relationships between the lines they transect, usually to assess whether lines that appear parallel in fact are. Applying this concept to socio-spatial divisions in two African cities, this talk foregrounds processes that operate transversally across geopolitical borders and urban spatial differentiations in eastern and southern Africa. It analyzes mechanisms of spatial differentiation at borders and in urban spaces and offers a preliminary theorization of relationships between differentiating and connective processes in each of these milieus. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among smugglers and migrants in urban Ethiopia and South Africa, the talk focuses on the agentive boundary-making activities of people moving and creating connections across borders and differentiated urban spaces to empirically ground the concept of transversality as an approach to urban space. In doing so, it opens new conversations about spatial differentiation and connectivity between urban studies and borderland studies.