Boats, Borders and the Geo-Imaginaries of the South

Francis Maravillas


This paper activates a mode of spatial inquiry into Australia’s identity through an analysis of a number of frames through which the passage and interdiction of boats off the coast of the nation may be viewed. In particular, I explore the way in which Australia’s paradoxical geographical location as South of both the West and Asia play a key role in affixing the horizon within which a conception of the nation and its relationship with the world was – and continues to be – defined and shaped. Moreover, I not only critically probe the constitutive fears and anxieties that underlie bounded conceptions of the trope of the South, but also to examine how such a trope can articulate itself as a site of exchange and negotiation, a distinctive borderland that engenders new cartographies of difference and belonging in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world. I show how these frames overlap and converge on the wider questions of space, place and identity at the very moment when the process of globalisation and migration has done so much to shake any certainties about Australia’s identity as a geographically distinct and spatially bounded nation-state. In so doing, they represent crucial sites for articulating and enacting a transcultural politics of mobility and spatiality that attends to the ways in which the trope of the South may been imagined not as a sphere of containment or an enclaved territory, but as an evolving cartography, the shifting outlines of which opens up new horizons of possibility for rethinking the spatial and temporal coordinates of Australia in a globalizing world.


Art, South, Refugees, Borders, Migration.

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