- Escaping Monstrosity: On Disfiguring and Refiguring Europe
The figure of Europe experienced through “margins” and “borders” is becoming undone—perhaps even permanently undone. It is resulting in a fundamental refiguring of Europe; a refiguring of how Europe appears to us as well as what it is and can be. Moreover, itis leading many to reconsider the very notions of “border” and “margin” in themselves in addition to their relationship with that entity which goes by the name, “Europe.” Discussion of the refiguring of Europe has come from many different directions, and to a number of different conclusions. Some argue that, like the contemporary world in general, Europe in particular is increasingly losing its borders—that it is gradually transforming into part of the “world without borders.” Evidence of this is many times linked to increased globalization—globalization whose net effect is the weakening of the borders of empires, nations and camps. Others though contend that just because borders are being undone, it does not follow that the consequence of this should or will be a “world without borders.”
In a 1993 conference entitled “L’idée de l’Europe et la philosophie,” the French philosopher Etienne Balibar, for example, argues that borders are being “reduced in their localization and their function” and “thinned out” at the same time they are being “doubled” and “multiplied.” The consequences of this are “border zones, regions or countries where one can reside and live” as well as an inversion of the quantitative relationship between “border” and “territory” (220). Writes Balibar,
This means that borders are becoming the object of protest and contestation as well as of an unremitting reinforcement, notably of their function of security. But this also means—irreversably—that borders have stopped marking the limits where politics ends because the community ends (whether the community is conceived of in terms of “contract” or “origin” has only a relative importance here, to tell the [End Page 95] truth, because the practical result is the same), beyond which, in Clausewitz’s words, politics can be continued only “by other means.” This in fact means that borders are no longer the shores of politics, but have indeed become—perhaps by way of the police, given that every border patrol is today an organ of “internal security”—objects or, let us say more precisely, things within the space of the political itself.(220)
Balibar’s comments are fascinating not only because they offer a solid alternative to the “borderless world” vision of Europe’s future, but also for the way they reveal a radical shift that has taken place for some in the very idea of “borders.” 1
Against the figures of the borders of Europe as “overdetermined” and “underdetermined” is a new way of imagining borders. As “things within the space of the political itself,” Balibar’s alternative view suggests that Europe’s borders are something other than the site “where one sovereignty ends and another begins; where individuals (ex)change obligations as well as currency; where in peacetime customs examinations are carried out; where in wartime armed populations converge, coming to defend the fatherland by attacking the enemy’s expansionism” (Balibar 217–218).
It is a notion of borders which calls for us to think about them in ways that are even difficult for us to imagine. In accordance with Balibar’s line of thought, all of Europe—both its “margins” and its “centers”—must now imagine itself as a border. The regions and nations of Europe must do this because it is through—more than anything else—the recognition of being a border that nations discern their identity. But the identification of itself as border is no easy task for nations let alone citizens of nations.
In a recent study, the French psychoanalyst André Green confirms this very point. “One can be a citizen or an expatriate,” writes Green, “but it is difficult to imagine being a border” (107). The internalization of borders by individuals is indeed a daunting task, but alas a necessary one according to some given its role in the consciousness of a European identity. Does then all of this rumination...