Theses Doctoral

The liquid border: Subjectivity at the limits of the nation-state in southeast Europe

Eleni, Myrivili

This is a study of power at the limits of the nation-state: an examination of the institution of the national border that focuses on the practices of the border people, from the perspective of cultural and performance theory. The site of this study is the trilateral border region of Prespa, where Albania, Greece and Macedonia/FYROM meet over the waters of two lakes. This ethnography offers an analysis of the discursive ways in which the border, a materialization of state power, affects the lives of the people who live around it, forming among them particular subjectivities. These border subjects are both formations of the territorial nation-state power, and sites of its articulation. With their negotiations and representations of identity, their haunting by past violence, their excesses and their secrecy, they carve out the border as a material sphere essential to the legitimacy of nation-state authority. The border provides the nation-state with a state of exception.

The Prespa borders, as all national borders, are subtended by violence that is instrumental to the institution of the nation-state and the legitimation of its power. The border is theorized in this study as the space of distance between the Nation and the Subject, the no-man's land where both the nation and its subject, stripped bare, institute and reiterate each other anew, locked in confrontation: the border is primarily a space of threat . My investigations used participant-observation and oral history techniques to document a broad range of practices of daily life in Prespa. I accommodate modes of representation such as storytelling, historical narrative, and theoretical analysis to take up challenges that the category of "performance" poses upon writing.

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Thesis Advisors
Taussig, Michael T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 27, 2011