Against the promise of free movement and mobility celebrated by the narrative of capitalism and globalization, the border stands as a stark reminder of the terrorizing history of death, destruction, and humiliation at the frontier. Like the Atlantic Ocean, home of the invisible and brutalizing memory of the slave trade, the Mediterranean and the Sonoran Desert today have become a dead zone, a dark trail of loss and sufferance amidst faint dreams of open lands and seas and freedom to roam. The growing militarization and securitization of the border unleashed by sophisticated technologies and algorithms of surveillance reflect a disturbing precariousness of empathy which seeks to conceal and banalize the trauma of crossing frontiers. By framing the debate of borders around security, threat and territory, the narrow calculus of border thinking multiplies and mutates beyond the physical spaces of the frontier, animating in the process a narrative of invasion, cultural purity, and territorial privilege. This article offers a critical reading of the politics, performance, and poetics of the border, border practices and border thinking in our current fractious conjuncture. Using the works of Caribbean poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant, I argue for a different interpretation and poetics of the border, one which does not nullify rootedness but refutes the tyranny of the “totalitarian root”. Under this alternative imaginary, the degeneration of borders into zones of non-being and the converse image of mobility as a human right force us to re-visit old fundamental questions about the distribution of the earth.
In his book After Europe, the Bulgarian political theorist Ivan Krastev observes the ‘free fall’ of the dominant grand narrative in Europe after 1989, Fukuyama’s idea of the ‘End of history’. If we want to understand why we must pay attention both to the ‘periphery’ of this narrative, as well as to the periphery of Europe, where the recent movement of migration in the refugee crisis is experienced from a nationalist déjà vu mindset and not welcomed, we have to rethink the phenomenon of nationalism and patriotism, and the difference between the two. After a short phenomenology of the diverse combinations of ‘love’ (among other meanings the love for my patria) and ‘justice’, the author concludes that a strict separation of patriotism and nationalism is hardly possible. And even more fundamental, there will always be a tension between love and justice or, in philosophical terms, between the particular and the universal. Following Krastev, the autor holds that the contemporary rise of populist movements and of ‘illiberal democracy’ points to the crisis of a meritocratic idea of liberal democracy. One longs for a form of belonging that is not the result of our performance but that is unconditional, as Jean Améry argued in his reflections on the meanings of a homeland (Heimat).
This article examines the significance of public space for the European project and reflects on the contribution of Christianity to the shaping of today’s public space. It is characterized by a common and shared symbolic, social, cultural, economic, political and geographical sphere that is potentially accessible and open to all people and welcomes creative participation. Today the specific task of Christianity consists not at least in the concretization of the idea of universal friendship in view of an ethos of empathy and inclusion which is perceptive of migrants and their narratives. The development of a amicable and non-hegemonic coexistence of Christianity, Islam and the secular world in Europe poses a particular challenge. In addition, it is necessary to make one’s own traditions and potentials fruitful in such a way that also the dead, who in the secular world are largely excluded, obtain a corresponding presence in the world of the living beyond nihilistic resignation. In this context it becomes apparent that the vocation of Christianity consists in providing an exit strategy to closed social and symbolic worlds. This exit includes the subversion of boundaries. It does not create an abstract boundlessness, but sets in motion a continuous process of creative openings and shifts in which public space becomes concrete as a place of ever new approaches, exits and inclusions.
From 1933, the inner Protestant ‘German Christians Church Movement’ from Thuringia took control over some Protestant regional churches in Germany. For the German Christians the main motives of their agitation were the creation of a ‘volkisch’ belief system based on race, Christianity and ‘dejudaization’ (of Christianity).
Based on the theoretical considerations of spaces, boundaries and exclusion, the article uses the example of the German Christians to show under which conditions individuals are denied entry into an imaginary religious space. ‘Exclusivist border crossings,’ as this phenomena is named here on the theoretical perspective, can explain how religious arguments exclude people from entering a religious space such as salvation when the access criteria are linked to birth-related conditions.
This article offers an interpretation of late modern social imaginaries and their relationship to religion and violence. I hypothesize that the transition from the ‘secular age’ to a so-called ‘post-secular constellation’ calls on us to critically reconsider the modern trope that all too unambiguously ties religion and violence together. Discussing the fault lines of a secularist modernity spinning out of control today on various fronts, I argue that the narrative semantics of the so-called ‘return of religion’ is frequently adopted as an imaginative catalyst for confronting these contemporary discontents – for better and worse. In linking recent work on ‘social imaginaries’ with Paul Ricœur’s discussion of the productive role of imagination in social life, I then explore the transformative potential of religious imagination in its inherent ambiguity. In conclusion I demonstrate that this quality involves a poietic license to start all over, one which can be used to expose both the violence of our beloved political ideals of freedom and sovereignty, as well as their repercussions on religious practice.
Conceptualizations of human borders will often refer to narratives of encounters, exchanges, and/or interactions that take place in two different but interrelated settings: one internal, between individuals or groups belonging to the space defined by the border; and one external, between such individuals or collectives and everything that is foreign to them. This integrating/distinguishing role of narratives underscores the imaginative process through which borders emerge, expressed with great poignancy in the fluidity and complexity of border-setting practices in late-modern societies. Paul Ricœur’s take on collective imagination and human action can be a tool to unearth some of the key conceptual features of such integration-distinction tension, by pointing to ways in which social imaginaries shape the liquidity and modality of borders in increasingly diverse communities. Ricœur’s analysis of the development of cultural imaginaries through the opposed yet complementary forces of ideology and utopia, and his exploration of the multi-layered character of mutual recognition, come together in an understanding of human persons – and communities – capable of imagining enlarged spaces of recognition. Richard Kearney complements this analysis with an account of narrative imagination that allows one to articulate the narrative origins of concrete human realities and practices, such as borders and border-setting. In this article, I make use of the contributions of Ricœur and Kearney to argue that a clear understanding social imagination is needed in order to account for the cultural matrix set by human borders, as well as to provide answers to the practical questions raised by concrete historical examples of borders and border-setting.
In this article I explore different ways of imagining distinctions in the form of borders and on the attitudes that people assume towards them. A distinction is primarily a cognitive operation, but appears as such in human communication (people talking about differences and identities), and in constructions that shape the material space people live in (borders, buildings, and the like). I explore two extreme positions, the one de-intensifying distinctions by focusing on their logical and contingent forms, the other intensifying distinctions by making them a potential cause of conflict. The first one is exemplified by Spencer Brown’s and Niklas Luhmann’s reflection on the logical and sociological aspects of distinctions; the second one by Carl Schmitt’s theory of ‘the political’ and its key notion of the distinction between friend and enemy. Both positions are relevant to understand a major debate and struggle in the world of today between liberal cosmopolitans and authoritarian nationalists. I show in what way both positions are aspects of the human condition, and what makes that alternately the one or the other is stressed.
This article presents some outlines of a new theory of modernity. As distinct from the theories of modernity of the Enlightenment (Habermas) and their critique in the form of theories of power (Foucault, post-colonial philosophies), modernity is described as a complex process of various “de-limitations”, which is set in motion in Renaissance philosophy. Since in antiquity cosmology as well as the geography of the ecumene were each tied to anthropological, ethical and political conceptions respectively, the de-limitation of the cosmos (Cusanus, Copernicus) and the de-limitation of the ecumene by the European naval powers trigger scientific, political and cultural transformations reaching from the upvaluation of insatiable curiosity to the anthropological idea of experimental self-creation (Montaigne) up to the idea of limitless economic growth (Locke). Since rational, power-related and cultural ideas are amalgamated in the different de-limitations, this theory opens up a new perspective on the ambivalences of modernity.
Recent struggles over the implications of migration have fueled transformational politics on both sides of the Atlantic. At the center of this are questions of identity, value, long-standing standards of human rights and even enlightenment categories of modernity. Both religion and media play central – even determinative – roles in these debates. This article will argue that scholarships focused on identity “imaginaries” are critical to understanding these discourses and this politics. This scholarship must inquire into both “sides” of migration, both the conceptual worlds of those who wish to move, and the conceptual worlds of those who receive (or attempt to not receive) them. This article will look at the latter through a deep historicist inquiry into the mediation of Protestantism as a central determinative force in the establishment of contemporary conditions of politics in relation to migration in the North Atlantic West. Protestantism’s role in European modernity is well-known, as is its deep interconnection with evolving technologies and means of communication and practices of mediation. This article seeks to understand religion-inflected discourses of nationalism and identity as functions of Protestant social and media instrumentality.