- Borders Are Obsolete:Relations beyond the “Borderlands” of Palestine and US–Mexico
I’m not going to confine myself to some narrow particularism. But I don’t intend either to become lost in a disembodied universalism. … I have a different idea of a universal. It is a universal rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars there are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.—Aimé Césaire, letter to Maurice Thorez 1956, in Discourse on Colonialism
We ask that you bring your word and use it to provoke thought, reflection, critique. We ask you to prepare your message, sharpen it, polish it. We ask that you use your message to honor those who will receive it, and not academia or its equivalents, even if that might come in the form of a shaking, a slap, or a scream.—SupGaleano, Mexico, April 2015
The Palestinian Youth Movement, San Diego (PYM), and Colectivo Zapatista (CZ) came together in the fall of 2013 after CZ approached PYM to work together on a 5K run along the US–Mexico border. This article aims to speak to how organizing, joint-struggles, and relationship-building processes around the Break Down Borders 5K function as possibilities against settler colonialism’s manifestations at the US–Mexico border through the partnership of local Palestinian, indigenous, black, migrant, third world, and queer organizers in San Diego, California. PYM was inspired by CZ’s desire to work together and draw parallels between Palestine and Mexico. We began planning for this event knowing that we would have the autonomy to frame, expand, and deepen its meaning and political trajectory to focus on the connections between indigeneity in Palestine, Mexico, and the United States and the effects of settler colonial displacement. Through organizing together for two years, we have learned from these experiences and, alongside each other, refined our joint political frameworks to include questions of the prison-industrial complex, land and water, spirituality, imperialism abroad, blackness, and queerness. [End Page 1039]
A major point has been the politics of language in this border city. Break Down Borders is an annual event that includes speakers, food, facilitated group dialogues, dancing, and a 5K run/walk along the US border wall in San Ysidro, California.
The traction it has gained in the community has extended across other communities of struggle and across the border to Tijuana. Some community members in Tijuana were interested in joint organizing and learning more about Palestine. So members of PYM and CZ crossed the border and gave a bilingual presentation in English and Spanish. While trying to find linguistic translations for key Palestinian political language, we realized the importance of the politics of translation, the political language across and the distinctiveness of contexts. Through this critical multilingual conversation on Palestine and the US–Mexico border, we were able to translate, share a message, and ultimately build lasting relationships between Tijuana and San Diego. Social relationships rooted in a deep sense of camaraderie, illegible to both the hegemonic discourse of empire and the dominant discourse of solidarity movements, enabled people from across these contexts to come together through an anti-settler-colonialism framework. We refer to this space as the undercommons: an intimate social space that was never supposed to exist given the conditions of institutional marginalization between people’s disparate conditions from which the border functions. The “undercommons” is a space that exists beyond the state, a collective space unmediated by the institution that can exist beyond the scope of capitalism because of its ability to be (temporarily) autonomous in its improvisational nature. This can be seen in the reweaving of the social relationships that exist in a capitalist system, structured by logistics, bureaucracy, and institutions. In this way, un/relearning connection, as Fred Moten and Stefano Harney put it, is an unmediated feeling of love that is misrecognized in the global capitalist cycle where rejected subjectivities refuse the settler colonial system and enact modes of living that work in tandem with decolonial thought.1
Thinking through, reading, seeing, listening to on-the-ground movements through academic frameworks of the interconnected fields of border studies...