Celebrated in an April 2010 BMI panel, “Blurring Borders” was inspired by foreign-born authors who reside in the U.S. and write in English about their native countries. The panel, featuring Junot Díaz, Yiyun Li, and Pablo Medina, thus became a launching point to consider borders of all kinds, chiefly those that edge place and the self. In many ways, the physical borders between us have softened—travel and technology have rendered many once-rigid boundaries plastic. Other walls of distance in today’s landscape, however, seem as strong as ever. Factors like the distribution of wealth and privilege, nationalism, violence, prejudice, and war all create division and otherness, and with them a desire for boundaries. Fights to maintain or create borders are as common as the campaigns to bring them down.
If anything, the mobility of our present world has made it clear that many borders have no solid line; a better representation might be a series of dashes, permeable to exception and individual choice. Or perhaps most of today’s borders should not be represented with a line so much as a smear of gray, a scattered continuum of every issue that marks the distance between the opposite poles of life’s binaries. The spatial border separating leadership from oppression, welcome from unwelcome, familiar from foreign—as this current issue demonstrates—can be equally infinite or minute.
We received submissions for this issue concerned with a startling range of boundaries; those marking gender, race, language, religion, literary form, and the human body appeared frequently. But most prevalent were the physical borders of landscape—demarcations imposed by geography that do not respond to will. The work in this issue informs the concept of the global nomad: the ways in which we wander the world and search for various incantations of belonging. Perhaps it is fitting, too, that the topic of blurred borders was originally intended to be a portfolio, but grew to include our entire issue as we steadily identified, in each piece we accepted, parameters the author was placing under negotiation. No longer will our themes be marked off and given only a region of the journal. The borders are widening.