Following on their curatorial work for Mapping the City: A Stranger’s Guide, a group of students in the BorderWork(s) Lab, a humanities lab based at Duke University, planned this exhibit on empire and cartography entitled Defining Lines: Cartography in the Age of Empire. This exhibit will be held in conjunction with Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space, which will open at the Nasher Museum of Art on September 19, 2013.
What is a humanities lab?
The core commitment of the Humanities Labs is to engage undergraduates in advanced research alongside faculty and graduate student mentors/collaborators. Organized around a central theme, each Lab brings together faculty and students from the humanities and other disciplines in interdisciplinary, “vertically integrated” research projects. Lab participants work in physical spaces at the Franklin Humanities Institute that are designed to foster both formal collaboration and informal exchange. Shared technological resources enable the Labs to experiment with new research methods, new lines of inquiry, and new ways of engaging with public audiences at Duke and beyond.
BorderWork(s) draws together critical perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, and policy studies to explore the acts of division and demarcation — representational and material, symbolic, political-economic and cultural — that have parceled up the inhabited world into bounded communities that arrest, interrupt and/or redirect the free flow of humanity, goods, ideas, images, indeed imagination itself. In this Lab, we investigate the human consequences of cartographic divisions (broadly conceived) and the materialization of these divisions in wall-building, both literal and virtual. Whenever frontiers change or disappear altogether, human security is affected, usually negatively. Borders that restrict human movement can prevent farmers from reaching their land or drawing water; Internet firewalls can silence reports of human rights violations; genocide can force refugees from their homelands; the walls in Belfast both perpetuate segregation and make a tentative peace possible; massive development projects such as dam construction can wreak environmental damage across borders as well as cause forced human relocations within borders. The Lab has specific sites of inquiry, including borders between Israel and the Occupied Territories; India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; within Northern Ireland; and between China and Tibet, among others.