B is for Border (crossing)

| April 22, 2014



We live with concepts. We live by them and through them. The Kantian insight that intuitions without concepts are blind means that concepts are like lenses calibrated to focus on certain aspects of experience and when we experience something for which we lack concepts our intuitions are blurry, not sufficiently determined to make meaning.
However, just as concepts enable meaning, they limit it. And for this the metaphor of lenses works just as well. What happens, then, when under certain circumstances life comes under the enabling and limiting conditions of one dominating concept?

In a case like that, re-interpretations, redefinitions, re-imaginings of a concept become tools for expanding or constraining the possibilities of meaning in experience.

The NPR series Borderlines tells the stories of people living in the US Mexico border. It is a series of radio shows supplemented by a series of photo essays. The premise of the series is to offer an alternative reading of the meaning of the concept of border, from thinking it as a line that divides, to thinking it as a place people inhabit. And the concept is then given content by the rich, thick stories of people living in the border.
My question is, then, about the possibility that art succeeds in helping us rethink concepts and the implications for the lives of people under conditions determined by the meaning of a concept. What kind of impact a work of socially engaged art, like the narratives of this NPR series, can have on the lives of people living under the dominance of the concept of border if the art in fact succeeds in breaking down and rebuilding the meaning of border?