All borderlands hum with the frequencies of the unconscious.
December 12, 2017 12:42 AM   Subscribe

Paul Scraton walks a stretch of the Irish border and reflects on the visible and invisible, past and current, borders of Europe.

Garrett Carr on Ireland's border, which he walked and canoed the 300-mile length for his book The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border. He created a Map of Connections to map the informal, uncharted border crossings he found.

Kapka Kassabova, author of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe about the area where the borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey meet, on the failure of borders, old and new.

Paul Scraton on visiting the now invisible border between East and West Germany at Priwell, which he explored in Ghosts on the Shore, his book about the Baltic coast..


Caught by the River
previously on Metafilter.

Open thread on current Irish border Brexit omnishambles.
posted by Helga-woo (6 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fine article." All borderlands hum with the frequencies of the unconscious." My experience with crossing the Irish border by train several years ago, going from Dublin to Belfast, confirms this. I am Irish-American, and my grandmother was a Devlin from the North, although I know very little about her as she died before I was born.

I had followed "The Troubles" in the North, and was a little concerned about going there even though my relatives in Galway assured us it was fine. The only change I saw from the train was that the street signs were no longer in Irish, but only in English. There was no stopping the train, no checking passports or anything else. But there was a feeling, the "frequencies of the unconscious" indeed.

Belfast was interesting and it was great to see the Giant's Causeway and Bushmill's Distillery on a tour, but a tiny bit unsettling to see the British flags on many houses. However the people were lovely including some young guys outside a tough pub who directed us to the best restaurant near our hotel as all the pubs had stopped serving food.

I would hate to see a hard border restored between the Republic and the North, it would cause so much hardship for people on both sides and I fear escalate the Troubles again.
posted by mermayd at 5:11 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


The "failure of borders" links says that the Kapitan Andreevo-Kapıkule (between Turkey and Bulgaria) is the busiest land crossing in the world, but I've also read that the San Ysidro crossing (between the US and Mexico) is the busiest one. Anyone have any reliable statistics/ways to measure this?
posted by andrewesque at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


@mermayd I grew up several miles from the border. Crossing it when I was a kid in the 1980s involved at least a stop and a driving licence check at an army checkpoint with anti-tyre devices, watchtowers covered in anti-rocket mesh and British army soldiers who really didn't want to be there. Scheduled bus services had a stop and a soldier walk the aisles having a look around. Then there were helicopters around, touching down and dropping patrols off in cowfields.

All the above intensified if there had been paramilitary incidents anywhere nearby.

So the border since the Good Friday Agreement is unrecognisable - there physically just isn't one any more. I can't believe that they would seriously let it return as a result of a Brexit decision that many Leave voters are now coming to realise was a bad move.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


There's a lot of heartbreak in Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday, and a lot of it maps on to the present. But what struck me the most was his notion (however nostalgic) of a golden age of interchange among nations, without borders or passports, that eventually devolved into this:

Nationalism emerged to agitate the world only after the war, and the first visible phenomenon which this intellectual epidemic of our century brought about was xenophobia; morbid dislike of the foreigner, or at least fear of the foreigner. The world was on the defensive against strangers, everywhere they got short shrift. The humiliations which once had been devised with criminals alone in mind now were imposed upon the traveler, before and during every journey. There had to be photographs from right and left, in profile and full face, one’s hair had to be cropped sufficiently to make the ears visible; fingerprints were taken, at first only the thumb but later all ten fingers; furthermore, certificates of health, of vaccination, police certificates of good standing, had to be shown; letters of recommendation were required, invitations to visit a country had to be procured; they asked for the addresses of relatives, for moral and financial guarantees, questionnaires, and forms in triplicate and quadruplicate needed to be filled out.
posted by chavenet at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


One thing I considered including in the post, but didn't in the end is a link to C P Cavafy's poem Waiting for the Barbarians, which Kapka Kassabova mentions in her article.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


All borderlands hum with the frequencies of the unconscious.

I've crossed the Pennsylvania-Delaware border a fair bit, and I'm not seeing it.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:52 PM on December 24


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