Border Landscape / le voisinage

MLA Thesis Section (2018-19)

Related Staff : Xiaoxuan Lu

Students: DUAN Wenlin William; HO Yu Ming Yuming; LU Siyi Lucy; TSANG Yik Ming Yammi

The notion of “natural borders” has haunted geography since the dawn of mapmaking. The idea really has ebbed and flowed in importance since antiquity, and re-emerged in the 17th century as cartography and statecraft were becoming ever more sophisticated and interrelated. Scholars such as French writer Samuel Chappuzeau believed that rivers and topographic features naturally limited politics, noting that a river “is most often used as the natural division of provinces”, and mountains “serve as a thick and impassable wall between provinces, similar to rivers acting as moats”. Critical scrutiny of this enduring geographical myth of natural borders figures prominently in contemporary research agendas in border studies, a field of research which has undergone a renaissance since the late 1980s, and experienced a transformation over the past two decades in the wake of the rapid expansion and reconfiguration of transnational connections. In opposition to the more traditional technical approach that perceives borders exclusively in territorial and geometric terms, political geographers and other social scientists have increasingly devised a more reflective approach, which examines how spatial objects are bounded, constructed and made “real” how the mechanisms that correlate nature and politics operate, and how boundaries are interpreted as material, visible and sacred. As American geographer John A. Agnew argues, there is “nothing at all ‘natural’ – physically or socially – to borders”, instead, “they are complex human creations that are perpetually open to question”. This thesis stream focuses on border landscape and the increasing tensions between center and periphery, global north and global south, and urbanization and conservation. How can designers comprehend border landscape, especially as professionals who often are expected to draw borders that define limits within our environments? Who and how do we exclude and include when we draw a line in a given project? Students should be prepared to apply analytical cartography, photography and video in their research, in order to reveal the hidden layers of landscape where multiple tensions converge.

Enlarge Photo: On the Underwater Land: Restoring Littoral Forest at Johor State's Forest City. By DUAN Wenlin.Enlarge Photo: Border Landscape / le voisinage 2