Border planes

Different kinds of borders (e.g. topographical or symbolic) can be conceptualized as articulations, mappings or projections of each other on different, layered planes.

In geography borders are treated as multifaceted or multilayered phenomena that are formed and which do their work on different scales (micro/macro) and levels (territorial, economic, cultural, ethnic etc.). Border studies in social geography have modelled borders as existing on different territorial, economic and cultural planes.

Spatial theorists have argued that we move in different kinds of space at the same time, for example Henri Lefebvres distinction between lived, perceived and conceived space, or Arjun Appadurai's series of different kinds of "scape". Each space can be taken to represent different forms of plane on which borders could simultaneously exist.

Wolfgang Müller-Funk and Svend Erik Larsen have both posited a representational or aesthetic level on which the border must exist. Müller-Funk suggests the use of Lacanian terminology when it comes to border planes;

"There is - to use Lacanian terminology - something like a real, a symbolic and imaginary space and in consequence a real, a symbolic and an imaginary border." (Müller-Funk 77)

Larsen reduces the basic number of border planes to those of the level of the border's manifestation and of the conditions of this manifestation

"any boundary implies at least two levels–that of its tangible manifestation and that of the conditions of this manifestation. With a less simple starting point, of course, the number and the nature of such levels may be much larger and more complicated." (Larsen 97)

Indeed, Larsen goes on to four types of borders which can be manifested spatially in aesthetic objects, boundaries on the levels of theme, medium, communication, and context.

A border poetics reading attempts to connect borders on two basic levels: the level of the borders represented in the text and the level of the text itself as a bordered representation. These to levels are further multiplied to five planes on which borders often seem to coalesce in texts: topographic, symbolic, temporal, epistemological and textual planes.

Borders on different planes are often juxtaposed upon one another, creating the possibility of allegorical transfers of meaning from one to the other. These juxtapositions cannot fit exactly, creating various folds and pockets in the border, and thus also border zones.

While geographers generally use the topographical plane as the baseline onto which borders on other planes are projected, a literary scholar might use the textual place as a baseline. This suggests that there is no primary level or hierarchy between levels.


  • Müller-Funk, Wolfgang. "Space and Border: Simmel, Waldenfels, Musil". Border Poetics De-Limited. Eds. Johan Schimanski & Stephen Wolfe. Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2007. 75-95.
  • Larsen, Svend Erik. "Border Poetics? Boundaries - Ontology, Methods, Analysis". Border Poetics De-Limited. Eds. Johan Schimanski & Stephen Wolfe. Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2007. 97-113.

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