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At the Borders of Citizenship: A Democracy in Translation?
Etienne Balibar European Journal of Social Theory 2010 13: 315 DOI: 10.1177/1368431010371751 The online version of this article can be found at: http://est.sagepub.com/content/13/3/315
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or some strangers. geographers. which institutionally represents both closeness and aperture.1177/1368431010371751 est. citizenship.com Etienne Balibar ´ Universite de Paris-X. Borders are already global. with respect to the repressive functions performed by the border especially with respect to strangers. It is clearly one of the major objects of reflection and points of interdisciplinary cooperation of anthropologists. which exhibits some of its fundamental characteristics inasmuch as it is historically framed and used by political practices as much as it determines them and sets its quasi-transcendental conditions. The construction of political space takes place through modes of translation between inside and outside that the border signifies. CA 92697 Email: ebalibar@uci. Keywords borders. ways of dividing the world into regions and thus make possible place and a ‘mapping imaginary’. etc. Irvine.sagepub.nav DOI: 10. To adopt the institution Corresponding author: University of California 312 Humanities Hall.uk/journalsPermissions. the formula ‘a non-democratic condition of democracy’. I would tend now to emphasize the much more ambivalent characteristics of this condition. A phenomenology of the border. Irvine Abstract Borders are never purely local institutions.At the Borders of Citizenship: A Democracy in Translation? European Journal of Social Theory 13(3) 315–322 ª The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permission: sagepub. Borders are characterized by an intrinsic ambivalence that derives from their internal and external functions. historians. I used in the past. political theorists.sagepub. 2010 . democracy. is a very complex undertaking.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. today. but also some nationals. or their permanent dialectical interplay. as the basis of collective belonging and state control over mobility and territory. Even philosophers may have something to say from within their intellectual tradition and disciplinary logic. migrants I will start out expanding on what I used to call a ‘phenomenological approach’ of the border as institution – and in a sense an institution of institutions.edu 315 Downloaded from est. Europe. Nanterre and University of California.co. thus. never reducible to a simple history of conflicts and agreements between neighboring groups and powers.
somewhat metaphysically. As a consequence. their abolition which would give rise to a ‘borderless world’ for the whole of mankind. but also deeply rooted in collective identifications and the assumption of a common sense of belonging. This might already explain why the imagination of borders has a privileged relationship with utopias. Here I generalize a reflection on the category of the foreigner and ‘foreignness’ that I find in particular in Bonnie Honig’s excellent book on Democracy and the Foreigner (2001). 1994 ). and with competing. particularly with what I call the paradigm of war and the paradigm of translation. albeit not with a fixed function and status. therefore. It is borders. I prefer to consider in Foucauldian terms that the border as such is a heterotopia or a ‘heterotopic’ place in history and society (Foucault. their interpretations and negotiations that ‘make’ or ‘create’ peoples. that borders are never purely local institutions. albeit in a very contradictory manner. or it works through the anticipation of their suppression. i. never reducible to a simple history of conflicts and agreements between neighboring powers and groups. or the institution of the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’. as to a Husserlian. but in fact following a suggestion from Kant’s early Latin dissertation on the ‘regions of space’. a way of dividing the world itself into regions. but in fact are always already ‘global’. imposed by state policies. bilaterally. their enforcing. controls over human mobility and intercourse. And as conditions for the construction of a collective experience. Why do I use the expression ‘phenomenology’. when utopian societies are imagined as isolated from the world. although there clearly are reciprocities to be highlighted between these different paradigms. both a place of exception where the conditions and the distinctions of normality and everyday life are ‘normally suspended’. and a place where the antinomies of the political are in a sense manifested and become an object of politics itself. the drawing and the enforcing of borders. 2010 .com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. or ‘being in the world’ when it is predicated on a plurality of subjects. while recognizing the importance of the border in the development of utopian discourses. so to speak. languages. i. the point of view of culture. or urban society. Hence the development of a ‘mapping imaginary’. they are essentially characterized by their intrinsic ambivalence. which are both exclusive and non-exclusive. Either it works through the assumption of their closure. I should add that borders are. Let me try to indicate three moments of this heterotopic phenomenon of borders from the point of view of their current 316 Downloaded from est. they are first a very real institution.316 European Journal of Social Theory 13(3) of the border as a privileged vantage point in the discussion on cosmopolitics and its tensions does not produce the same effect as adopting.e. Heideggerian and hermeneutic concept of meaning? In previous essays I suggested. constitutive of the transindividual relationship to the world.sagepub. which would concern only them. which has clearly as much anthropological importance as the imagination of historical time and is probably not to be separated from it. therefore places. in a sense that certainly owes as much to the Hegelian idea of a historicity of experiences in which the individual and the collective are mutually conditioning each other. But the borders are not only structures of the imagination. It continues with the fact that borders are in fact at work within opposite paradigms of the construction of the political.e. juridical constraints. to which I will return. say. or subjective and objective. therefore a way of configuring the world or making it ‘representable’ as the history of maps and mapping techniques testifies. This ambivalence begins with the fact that borders are in fact both internal and external. antithetic models for the construction of the ‘stranger’. races and genealogies. or territory.
into labor. sometimes for the whole of one’s life). majoritarian and minoritarian traditions and belonging. where so-called ‘universal’ or ‘international’ languages have been created and institutionalized. is a new intensity of this overlapping or indecision of the relationship between war and translation. particularly the nation in modern history. or the experience of the world. war arises over translation and translation remains a war – because in particular translation involves a confrontation with the conflictual differ´rend’ with the other in Jean-Francois ence. 2010 .e. literature. The first element in this description that I want to emphasize is the fact that borders and frontiers (or borders qua frontiers: I leave aside the very interesting idiomatic distribution of these terms in various languages) are simultaneously defined as functions of warfare (including the interruption of warfare in the form of territorial settlements and an equilibrium of power sanctioned and codified by international law). and in fact includes permanent aspects of extermination. i. and history. enforced and developed through education.Balibar 317 transformations. for instance. abstraction in the merchant and capitalistic sense. this is not to say. and returns under the very appearance of consensus and communication. The emergence of something called ‘European borders’ with the problematic characteristic of being constantly dislocated is indeed one of the main concerns underlying this very sketchy theorization. in what I suggest calling a philological model of the construction of the political space. or the irreducible.sagepub. 317 Downloaded from est.e. unspeakable ‘diffe ¸ Lyotard’s (1983) terminology. Ethnocide or culture wars are part of this economy. where the appropriation of a collective identity but also its equivalence with others mainly rests on the establishment of a correspondence as tight and effective as possible between linguistic communities and political communities with the same boundaries. or in specific circumstances. or linguistic exchange. on the side of war. i. This reciprocity of war and translation around and within the establishment of lasting cultural power structures or hegemonies has been particularly emphasized by post-colonial studies which concern both the old peripheries and the old ‘centers’. from the fact that war has been immersed in a much more general economy of global violence. This is. a world both virtually common and deeply divided among incompatible representations of the sense of history. On the contrary they are bound to continuously interfere and merge. This is not to say that the construction of borders for and through war and the suspension of war. either very briefly or for a very long period. This would come also. especially across and beyond Europe. In a sense.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. that can be displaced but not abolished. more generally power and discourse. that the two models are completely external to one another. and the model of the construction of borders and their interiorization through the community of language and the possibility of translation (translation being the activity that takes place when you are on the border itself. journalism and communication – as Benedict Anderson (1991) famously demonstrated in his study of ‘imagined communities’ (and the becoming hegemonic of the national form of the state). which is not less but more murderous. and as functions of translation. I repeat. one of the major themes of reflection in Dipesh Chakrabarty’s work Provincializing Europe (2000) where he insists on the conflictual relationship between antagonistic ways of ‘translating’ life worlds. Perhaps we could suggest that what characterizes the experience of the world of globalization in which we find ourselves today.
which derives from the famous essays by Georg Simmel and Alfred Schutz. Toni Negri and Michael Hardt. no longer ‘belong’ to the populations of European descent). In his book. as there is for Urdu. or a ‘pure language’. has also become a much more complex and conflictual work with the process of globalization. Homi ¨ 318 Downloaded from est. to the seeming natural catastrophes which foremost affect the populations already targeted by mass impoverishment which make them ‘superfluous’ from the point of view of the capitalist rationality. Postmodernity and Its Discontents. in spite of the schematic character of these remarks to the second aspect that I wanted to emphasize in order to suggest the possibility of a phenomenology of borders as a preliminary to the understanding of the cosmopolitical issue. or Giorgio Agamben. I take this formula to mark an important step in the story of sociological and philosophical reflections on the figure of the stranger and the foreigner (the duality of categories in English already marking the difficulty of assessing priority to the interior or the exterior. and continues today with new developments by Paul Gilroy. i. not from the global Republic of Letters. including French. has emphasized that ‘all societies produce strangers. On the other hand. to be recognized as equal parts of the ‘conversation’ among the populations of multinational and multicultural Europe. Turkish. acknowledging the irreducible nature of the untranslatable elements and producing through its confrontation with this ‘impossible’ task a universal community of languages.318 European Journal of Social Theory 13(3) The pattern of a ‘global civil war’. It is not only that in a postcolonial world the hierarchy of world languages. and produces them in its own inimitable way’ (Baumann. ranging from so-called ‘new wars’ which involve state and non-state actors. is becoming less and less indisputable and unilateral. but becomes also continuously enforced in a brutally simplified manner through the monolinguistic discipline of internet communication. I suspect that similar problems could be raised with respect to Spanish and Asian languages within the North American space. i. as much questioning of established sovereignties. on a Hobbesian model. but each kind of society produces its own kind of strangers. therefore granted the same educational and administrative status as the ‘genuinely European’ national or regional languages (some of which for centuries have been expropriated. it should become progressively clear that the labor of translation which permanently confronts the antinomy of equivalence and difference. This brings me quite naturally. especially as it is seen ‘from below’. in the possibility of Algerian citizens simultaneously using their historical languages on a par. 1997: 17).e. the juridical or the cultural aspect). and African languages. but by the working populations themselves. that is looming in such diverse interpretations as those proposed by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Zygmunt Bauman who is certainly one of the great anthropologists of the cultural side of ‘globalization’ today. 2010 .sagepub. It is also that the association of linguistic hierarchies with borders and collective identities appears much more clearly as a form of national and transnational power structure: there is as much violence and latent political conflict. therefore of possibilities of translation towards the same ‘languages of reference’. Arab. is useful here but it is also misleading because it tends to blur and quickly reduce to unity the enormous heterogeneity of the processes of violence involved in this global economy.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. as Walter Benjamin explained in somewhat messianic terms in his famous essay on ‘The task of the translator’ (1991 ). and tendentiously pushes them to the edge of survival. subverting the forms of international law. which serve as general equivalents for all the others.e.
so to speak. or the historical national form of the state. Bonnie Honing already cited. i. It also 319 Downloaded from est. including the establishment of camps. and excluding anybody. sociologists like Alessandro Dal Lago and Sandro Mezzadra. as embodied in the Schengen rules. who comes from extracommunitarian spaces. to a notion of virtual enemy. and the way they are enforced against the self-determination and the right of circulation of migrant and refugee populations. arising from the simple fact that differences of nationality.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. was never completely solved. The exclusionary aspect of this would be a universalistic community. and especially from the growing indiscernibility of the concept of police and the concept of war that it involves (also present in other forms of sovereign violence in today’s world). as already signaled by Hannah Arendt with respect to the ‘stateless’ populations.e. but what I draw from this analysis personally. however permanently settled and economically or culturally integrated. which formerly applied in the same manner in each nation-state to aliens. who work very concretely on the development of the ‘normalized state of exception’ to which migrants are increasingly subjected in Europe in order to maintain the distinction between legal and illegal categories of immigrants (paradoxically in the name of security. and political scientists like Didier Bigo. etc. that led to the institution of borders and the closure of territories. have added another element: the violent police operations continuously performed by some European states (with the help of neighboring non-European subject states. but also others. a reverse side of the emerging European community of citizens. the ‘extra-communitarians’. or the pre-existing difference among nations and genealogies. distinguishing the national and the foreigner. they are the absolute aliens subject to institutional and cultural racism. To this general idea. more than foreigners. or the ‘real stranger’. incorporating anybody who is already a national citizen in any of the member states. and especially the immigrant workers and refugees from the South. are now. not in spite of the continuous relocation of these borderlines which are also police demarcations.sagepub. have become less than foreigners. The reduction of the figure of the stranger to that of the enemy is perhaps one of the clearest signs of the crisis of the nation-state. In previous essays. they are in fact no longer exactly strangers. such as Libya or Morocco) on behalf of the whole community. or quasi-genealogies. I return to this in a minute. while other foreigners. but it would seem that the establishment of the new borders of Europe. or the imaginary possibility of controlling populations and territories in a completely independent manner. but precisely because of this discretionary character. shed a brutal light on this issue. produces something like a European apartheid. are now creating a permanent discrimination: some foreigners (the ‘fellow Europeans’). concerns the tendency towards a reduction of the notion of the foreigner. imposing an institutional mark of otherness on the complexity of cultural and local differences. which can be activated depending on the logic of power permanently running after the recuperation of its lost sovereignty. which this distinction permanently undermines). 2010 . in terms of rights and social status. which is not to say that they feel no difference. amount to a kind of permanent border war against migrants. I had intentionally given this discussion a provocative dimension by suggesting that the introduction of a notion of European citizenship based on national membership within the European Union. The question whether it was the existence of borders that created the stranger. The extent to which this policy is intentional can be disputed.Balibar 319 Bhabha.
does not coincide with a linear process of withering away. more explicitly a revival of nationalist feelings. not a bad connoisseur. they could become. or better said. return to a relatively lawless status and mode of exercising power. my third and last point. especially in France.sagepub. which the current arrangements will not correct. the result would probably have been a ‘No’ in a majority of countries. ` this symmetry is heavily unbalanced. by adding a complication. In fact. Their inclusion in the domain of the ‘right to have rights’ would illustrate what French political philosopher Jacques Ranciere called granting the shareless their share. concentrated on its borders but also continuously dislocating these borders. let us remember in passing). conflictual ‘laboratory’. but from Europe itself. shortly after the event. and we must develop a symptomatic interpretation. I don’t believe that we are dealing here with a simple example of the perpetual conflict between a reactionary nationalism and an enlightened cosmopolitanism. of which the strangers are the inevitable victims – and not only when they come from outside Europe. between its own ‘peoples’. perhaps it does not matter so much. And I also don’t think that the reason for the failure of the federal project lies entirely in the social and economic causes emphasized by the Left. Indeed. and its relationship to the development of so-called populist attitudes in Europe. thus concretely anticipating a cosmopolitical transformation of citizenship. even before they are granted formal citizenship. if popular referenda has been carried on everywhere in Europe. But – to return once again to the suggestions made by Bonnie Honig in her Democracy and the Foreigner. but you may remember that former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. much more briefly. but it is never completely destroyed. when I started reflecting on the consequences of the failed attempt at establishing a European Constitution two years ago (a Constitution strongly advocated by Jurgen ¨ Habermas. On the contrary. including the UK and possibly Germany. The French and the Dutch played the role of the bad Europeans in the story. it is at stake in the daily process of resistances and vindications of basic rights on the part of the foreigners. to qualify this consideration. i. looked at with suspicion and fear by the official institutions and the ‘majoritarian’ population. they also testify to an extremely ambivalent character of the political process involved. it makes the nation-state. however.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. or additional citizens. I want. and they actually very often do become. which strongly suggests a comparison with the early modern moments in the construction of the monopoly of violence that Marx interpreted as so many aspects of the ‘primitive accumulation’. They probably have something to do perhaps with a new phase of primitive accumulation of capitalism on the global scale. whose very difference reproduces the fabric of rights and the democratic legitimacy of the institutions. when it insisted that the draft constitution had been rejected because it completely endorsed a legitimization of the neo-liberal 320 Downloaded from est. which may sound very optimistic indeed (leaving behind the famous distinction of the optimism of the will based on the pessimism of intelligence).320 European Journal of Social Theory 13(3) shows that the crisis of the nation-state. 2010 . for which Europe appears as a sort of violent. In short. This will be. either internal enemies. or a combination of nation-states. What is cause and what is effect in this matter can be disputed. declared his conviction that. which make them members of an active community of citizens.e. I became aware of this. which I submit for critique and discussion. whole populations of strangers are now oscillating between the condition of outsiders and insiders in the construction of a post-national and especially post-colonial order. I believe.
and economy. So there must be something else as well. I do believe that European racism directed against immigrant ‘extra-European’ populations. and the xenophobia directed. But I also believe that the reverse is true: it is the inability of European nations. This is what I call the difficulty – or the cosmopolitical difficulty – for Europe to deal with its double otherness. the ‘fellow Europeans’ if you like. or abolish this distinction and return to a classical status of the border and the definition of the stranger. culture. This is also the difficulty for Europe to completely distinguish between its internal borders (between member states) and its external borders (with the rest of the world. and in a sense the most difficult question. even if it is largely true. To put it concretely in one phrase. qua agents of reciprocal or correlative interaction 321 Downloaded from est. but also Turks or populations of North African descent who have been part of ‘European history’ for centuries now in a colonial or semi-colonial framework. This would quite naturally take us towards the next. against non-European populations of migrants (or of migrant descent) – with highly ambivalent cases such as Romanians. on the other hand. which now are no longer confronted in absolutely separated spaces.sagepub. and also some common cultural characters easily seen as threats to European culture. Once it could be called the ‘16th nation’. which makes it so difficult for all the other nations to perceive themselves as building a single constituency. a derivative for a repressed mutual xenophobia. in fact. which largely hinders the possibility of developing social movements against neo-liberal policies. as a single political constituency. 2010 . It could also – at least ideally – foster a development of pan-European social movements among workers. not to mention the permanent temptation of populist parties and leaders to instrumentalize anti-migrant fears and hatred for domestic purposes. to grant migrants and populations of migrant descent an equal status in terms of rights and recognition. which I tend to believe. it would not produce political effects of nationalist revival on its own. they could address their most urgent common social and political problems. results from a projection of the nationalist feeling opposing European nations to one another. and which the European construction in its current form has only superficially recovered – racism forming. This can be disputed and in any case. And it is this missing nation in the middle. for which some of the democratic advances written in the Constitution (notably in the Charter of Fundamental Rights) could serve as an instrument. in each European country. and a dismantling of the collective social rights. and especially the South. or its internal otherness and its external otherness. but also the East.Balibar 321 conception of the public sphere. and in fact the unwillingness of European states. which prevent Europeans from imagining that. I believe that it can be looked for in the vicious circle created by the addition of different kinds of xenophobia directed. made up of several longestablished migrant communities with different histories but a similar final destiny. now it could be called the ‘28th nation’. on the one hand.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. There is something like a ‘missing nation’ in the middle of Europe. which returns in a fantastic manner as a virtual internal enemy. thus giving rise to a new more ‘cosmopolitical’ moment in the history of democratic citizenship. and perhaps some day the American West). when there were fifteen official member states. namely the question of the nature of subjects of cosmopolitics. from the philosophical and the political point of view. each for itself. Balkan peoples in general. Which automatically deprives them of the capacity to collectively resist or influence the global trends of politics. toward the other European peoples.
abstract. We. This is. Acknowledgement This article is based on a public lecture at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. IV 1. pp. ed.com at QUEENS UNIV LIBRARIES on August 10. New York: New York University Press. or possibly though a certain use of borders. NJ: Princeton University Press. Irvin.sagepub. Zygmunt (1997) Postmodernity and Its Discontents. 322 Downloaded from est. Bauman. of the classical utopia. ¨ Benjamin. 7–21. London: Routledge. precisely the point where the issue of translation has to be recognized as a crucial issue in contemporary intellectual debates especially when transformations of citizenship are at stake. individuality and transindividuality. IV. Re ´flexions sur la me ´diation europe ´enne (Paris: Editions La L’Europe. NJ: Princeton University Press. politics as war and war as politics. ‘cosmopolitan man’.322 European Journal of Social Theory 13(3) across borders. Walter (1991 ) ‘Die Aufgabe des Ubersetzers’. a certain democratization of borders. in Dits et e Gallimard. universalism and cosmopolitics. Michel (1994 ) ‘Des espaces autres’. 2010 . Lyotard. pp. in Gesammelte Schriften Vol. l’Ame Decouverte. 752–62. Frankfurt am Main: ¨ Suhrkamp. borders and the representation of the stranger. Chakrabarty. 2002). Department of English and Comparative Literature). ´rend. inasmuch as they differ from the ideal. ´rique. the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship ´ (Princeton. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Bonnie (2001) Democracy and the Foreigner. Paris: Minuit. Dipesh (2000) Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhauser. Princeton. ´crits. Past and current research subjects include: philosophical anthropology (the subject and the citizen). in my opinion. Princeton. 2003). University of California. Book publications include: Politics and the Other Scene (London and New York: Verso. Jean-Francois (1983) Le diffe ¸ Bio Etienne Balibar is emeritus professor (Philosophie politique et morale) at the Universite de ´ Paris-X Nanterre and Distinguished Professor of Humanities (Department of French and Italian. University of London. Birkbeck College. Honig. Tuesday 6 November 2007. or ‘citizen of the world’. Benedict (1991) Imagined Communities. NJ: Princeton University Press. 2003). References Anderson. extreme violence and the problem of civility. Vol. la Guerre. Paris: Foucault.
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