The Politics of Categories
: Rethinking Boundaries in Translation

  • Reiko Shindo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


An increasing number of works argues that the state boundary is no longer just a territorial line to mark the outer edges of the state but it has become more diffused in terms of its locations and its forms. Bordering practices take place not just at the geographical entry and exit points of the state but in cyberspace and are performed not simply by immigration officers but also, for instance, by civilian vigilante groups. While the extant works successfully address the complexity of bordering practices and suggest the need to think of the boundary differently from a simple line, it has yet to effectively propose an apposite image of the boundary. This lack of investigation leaves the extant works unresponsive to their own reliance on the image of the boundary-as-a-line in articulating alternative images.

The thesis examines this tenacious image of a line in order to investigate an image of the boundary which might productively reflect its diffused characteristics. Considering that bordering is an act of classifying people into groups, the thesis takes categorisation as a focal point of investigation. This enables the thesis to point out that the tenacity of the boundary-as-a-line image is manifested in the continual reliance on categories in the extant debates. Drawing on the examples of migrant activism where categories play significant roles, the thesis argues that categories are used as representational tools in activism. As such, categorisation entails the possibility of failing to represent to perfection. The thesis argues that the reliance on categories is realised in this representational slippage, the gap between what categories are supposed to signify and what is actually signified by categories.

The thesis concludes by suggesting that these two-the ability and inability of categorisation-point to the image of the boundary as a dot. The reliance on categories, and hence the tenacity of the boundary-as-line image appears in the gap between what a line attempts to do and what it fails to do
Date of Award20 Mar 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJenny Edkins (Supervisor) & Patrick Finney (Supervisor)

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