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World Languages and Cultures

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Book Chapter

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Crossing Boundaries: Ethnicity, Race, and National Belonging in a Transnational World

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Borderlands-limned, delimited, and defined by the presence, imaginary presence, or absence of geospatial boundaries contingent upon state power have many representations. Positive and negative state sanction through rights, privileges, policing, or enforcement are often determined by a person's position with respect to such boundaries. Sometimes such boundaries, like the borders of nation-states that generally define citizenship, seem to have taken on nearly immutable fixity. The historical processes through which institutional structures accredited to these questions of space and sanction began to take their modem shape in the eighteenth century. Often, however, borderlands are more imagined than physical, more contingent upon concepts and identifications than upon fixed geospatial boundaries. Daniel T. Rodgers's expression of this polyvalent issue is clear and succinct: '"Borderlands' is a word of multiple and competing uses, some of which extend far beyond its core, geographic meanings into a general cultural metaphor." Such metaphorical borderlands, spheres of imaginary and contingent action, represent the sites of complex and multi-layered processes of institutional and self-identification like ethnicity. Any successful exploration of the relationships between nation and ethnicity must therefore reflect how the geophysical borderlands of states and institutions shade over into the conceptual and metaphorical borderlands of individual and group identities.


This is a chapter from Brian D. Behnken and Simon Wendt, eds. Crossing Boundaries: Ethnicity, Race, and National Belonging in a Transnational World (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013): 301-19, reproduced by permission of Rowman & Littlefield.


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Lexington Books



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