Modern Languages Rm 453
The current US-Mexico border, 60 miles south of Tucson, was more or less literally drawn in the sand beginning in 1849 when the recently formed Boundary Survey Commission embarked from San Diego for Fort Yuma – charting their course by looking at the night sky. The masonry monuments the team built were replaced in 1852 by rock cairns, but these, too, were quickly either moved or destroyed. In an effort to transpose a boundary that – once again – existed only through its representation in legal texts, maps, and survey drawings, onto the landscape, more permanent obelisks were constructed in the 1890s out of stone and cast iron. If you drive along the border today, you will still see these obelisks rising up from the landscape every two to four miles – a distance reflecting the shifting sight lines of the men on horseback who placed them there.
We live at these borders. Between subjective perception and the objective world; between the past and the future; among languages, cultures and nations; between what is concrete, tangible, “real,” and what can only be imagined.
This year’s Convergences theme, “Borders and Frontiers,” will provide a platform for the new and ongoing research of our colleagues in the department whose work takes place within this ambiguous terrain, which often feels (again, more or less literally) like a conflict zone.
Though borders are constantly shifting – a matter or perspective, of representation, and of imagination – this does not make them any less real. Through a series of panel discussions, guest speakers, flash readings and other events, we aim to explore this paradox, and spark new conversations about the role of language and literature in pushing against established borders in thought, culture and public policy. We will ask: What does it mean to be “outside” or “inside” something? Where does a “border” end and a “frontier” begin? What happens when borders become transparent or permeable? What happens when they are made – quite literally – concrete?
We hope that you will join in the conversation this year, as we endeavor to extend our collective “line of sight.”