Orientalism, Borders, & (Im)Migration: the human dimensions of East/West border-making and -crossing




Nielsen, Julianna R.C.

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My research project will inquire into Orientalist constructions of the geographical and cultural boundaries between the ‘West’ and the ‘East’—civilizational entities imagined as limited, bordered, and ‘essentially different’—in relation to the phenomenon of (im)migration. Existing literature brings attention to various manifestations of Orientalism, as a mindset and practice, in the ways in which the ‘West’ envisions itself—as ‘modern,’ ‘secular,’ ’progressive,’ and etc.—in relation to the ‘East,’ especially in the context of historical and contemporary (Western) imperialisms. I am curious to understand how theories and practices of (forced) migration have challenged or affirmed, in different historical contexts, ‘static’ conceptions of the borders and frontiers between ‘a self-imagined Europe’ and its ‘Eastern Other.’ To ground this theoretical study of Orientalism, borders, and migration, I explore the processes and human consequences of boundary-making and -crossing as they relate to Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire (1810s-20s), the population exchange between Greece and Turkey (1920s), and the contemporary ‘refugee crisis’ in the Eastern Mediterranean (2010s). In this way, I come to analyze the institutions, practices, and discourses through which communities crossing the border between ‘Europe’ and the ‘East' are classified, racialized, and securitized in respect to Orientalist frameworks which assume an ‘Eastern’ ‘difference,’ ‘incompatibility,’ and ‘threat’ to supposed ‘Western’ values and ways of life.



Orientalism, Migration, Borders, International Politics, Refugees