For the first in this series of keynote conversations on topology, philosopher Étienne Balibar is joined by theorist Sandro Mezzadra (University of Bologna) and psychoanalyst Bernard Burgoyne in a discussion of the wider significance of borders.
Political space includes a functioning of borders: national and trans-national frontiers are structures that are both political and topological. There exist very different kinds of border, according to the different kinds of texture of space. These textures determine pathways that are available to people in their everyday lives. But the pathways may be impasses, although a way through them can sometimes be constructed.
The current proliferation of borders provides an angle on really existing global processes. A geographical disruption, a continuous process of rescaling of political, economical, legal and cultural spaces lies at the heart of globalization. A unilateral focus on exclusion, which has long characterized critical interventions of scholars, artists and activists on the topic of borders, is not able to grasp the "productive" power of borders as crucial devices of articulation of global processes. A topological approach to the analysis of contemporary borders can help in this sense to understand the mobility and elusiveness of spatial formations that are marked as much by differentiation as by connection. Stressing the relevance of border struggles for the constitution and contestation of new assemblages of power and capital leads to consider the border not only as a topic of research but also as an epistemic angle on some of the most pressing political questions of the present. Sandro Mezzadra, The proliferation and heterogenization of borders in the contemporary world
Étienne Balibar is a philosopher. He is Professor Emeritus of moral and political philosophy at Université de Paris X – Nanterre and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He has published widely in the area of Marxist philosophy and moral and political philosophy in general. His many works include Lire le Capital (with Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Jacques Rancière, Roger Establet, and F. Maspero) (1965), Spinoza et la politique (1985), Nous, citoyens d’Europe: Les Frontières, l’État, le peuple (2001), Politics and the Other Scene (2002), L’Europe, l’Amérique, la Guerre: Réflexions sur la médiation européenne(2003), Europe, Constitution, Frontière (2005). He is the co-editor of the forthcoming book The Borders of Justice with Sandro Mezzadra and Ranabir Samaddar.
Sandro Mezzadra is Professor of History of Political Thought at the University of Bologna. He is editor of DeriveApprodi and is on the editorial boards of Studi Culturali, Scienza & Politica andFilosofia Politica. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming book The Borders of Justice with Étienne Balibar and Ranabir Samaddar. He has written widely on the areas of migration, capitalism, colonialism and post-colonialism, Italian workerist and autonomist Marxism. He has held a Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Turin (1994–6), the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Research Scholarship at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (1997–8) and the Max Planck Gesellschaft für Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt (1999).
Bernard Burgoyne has a background in psychoanalysis, philosophy of science and mathematics. He is a practising psychoanalyst – and Emeritus Professor of Psychoanalysis – who founded the Centre for Psychoanalysis at Middlesex University. He was at one time Research Assistant to Professor Sir Karl Popper, and works on questions of the scientific foundations of psychoanalysis in a way that does not exclude questions of classical political philosophy – as witnessed by the participation of Étienne Balibar in the Jury of Burgoyne’s Doctoral Thesis in Paris. Burgoyne will be publishing a book on these themes in the new year, and is simultaneously working on a second book, on the relation of scientific method to the work of Lacan and Bion. The topological formalisation of subjectivity is at the centre of his work, and he has given over 300 public lectures on this theme at Harvard, the Royal College of Art, the Architectural Association, Tate Britain, the Southbank Centre, the Rijksdakademie for Fine Art, Amsterdam, the Royal Irish Academy, and many other clinical and academic institutions across the world.