‘Doing’ Borders Together?

Nicole Land thinking with Maria Wysocki, Selena Ha, Andrea Thomas, and Alicja Frankowski

We’ve been thinking with the idea of bordermaking, and how our bordermaking practices create certain possibilities for being and moving together in the sand (and beyond): how do we do borders? Why do we make borders? What do our borders create or shut down? How do we practice borders? Why? With what materials, ideas, intentions? How do the borders we make shape how we move together?

We have also talked also about responding to borders, thinking about the status-quo or taken for granted ways that we have of responding to borders (ownership, control, regulation, thinking of borders as something one individual person makes and is governed by). We wonder how we might respond to borders differently, beyond these inherited ways of knowing borders: how do we practice a different kind of bordermaking, one concerned with how borders entangle with care, materials, relations, moving well together? What kinds of questions can we ask? How can we move to centre, with children, our intention to think with borders? How do we talk about bordermaking with the tree with the children?

I came across a series of tweets from Ashon Crawley, an assistant professor at the University of Virgina, on borders.

Crawley is tweeting in the context of borders and America, and his tweets remind me of two things: first, our conversations on the politics of even very small, everyday border-making in ECE and how that ties to larger overarching ideas about children’s relations with borders (and how children move with borders); and how thinking with borders and moving in your space is never separate from larger, inherited societal practices of and relations with borders. Crawley says “borders are literally made up. borders are fictions. borders are imagined and, like any imaginative and fictive practice, are worthy of thought and interrogation” and concludes by asking “what would we be, how could we be, if we stopped allowing borders to be the way we organize ourselves?”

Crawley’s suggestion that borders need to be interrogated is sticking with me, as is his provocation that borders do not have to be a primary way of organizing life, movement, and childhoods – how do we notice and interrogate our practices of everyday bordermaking as we move in ECE? What happens if we do not allow borders to be a primary method for organizing our movement, relations, and lives? What other practices for living together, besides borders, might we invent? 

I am thinking of a moment where two children were cutting leaves off of a branch using scissors. We were paying at lot of attention to how hard it was to cut some leaves off. Some branches are really strong, sometimes the scissors aren’t strong enough and some scissors are stronger than others. One of the children mentioned that you had to be very strong to cut the leaves off. We focused very intently on the act of snipping the leaves off the branches; of creating a clean cut that removed the leaves from the branches. Then, we started to notice how there was a growing pile of leaves at their feet that had tumbled down off the branch. One of the children noticed how the leaves were covering their shoes so we couldn’t see their feet. We talked about how the leaves tickled the skin on their shins. We noticed too how the leaves on the floor changed how we moved – we could stand on the leaves and smush them into the ground, we could move our legs and hands if the leaves were covering them, or we could be still and let the leaves gather on our feet. We talked about how that moving – how we responded to the falling leaves – was shaped by the leaf/branch cutting: “it’s falling on my foot because I cut it”. We started, I want to suggest, to think about how, as the leaves were cut and fell to the sandbox floor, we became implicated in shifting and blurring borders, where borders were no longer so easy as thinking that we were cutting the leaves off the branch and removing them from the branch and that border was made/finished. The leaves continued to matter and to border-make, but differently. It was almost this ongoing making and shifting of borders, where there are multiple borders being made and dismantled and re-made differently with leaves and branch fragments and shoes and skin in any moment.  

This makes me think about Crawley’s question: “what would we be, how could we be, if we stopped allowing borders to be the way we organize ourselves?”. 

What might we open up if we don’t search for “easy” or “firm” borders in how we border-make, but instead pay attention to fleeting, reforming, less-familiar borders and asked how fragmented, more-than-human borders entangle with our moving? How might this shift our relations with borders? How might we notice differently how we are implicated in border making? Why might this matter?

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