June 2019

Borders, Paradoxes

and Feminist Politics alive and kicking


Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, the wind steals your voice
To survive the Borderlands,
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.

(Gloria Anzaldúa, Living in the borderlands)



It was day time, a sunny day, it was like a normal journey, but of course I was all white and very anxious, excitement, nervousness, I felt like I would faint, something like that. It was like a 2 hours’ journey and I was trembling throughout. But at some point, the captain said that ‘now we are within the borders of Greece’. It was one of the best moments of my life. I felt free after 2 years, I really felt free! ‘Ok’, the captain said, ‘now there is no problem, now we are not within the borders of Turkey, you crossed the borders’, it was wonderful. Freedom is so important I understood, more important than money. You can live anywhere; you can eat anything, it is OK. But if you don’t have freedom, you have nothing. I cannot tell you how I felt at that moment that I heard the captain, I can still hear his voice: ‘we are safe now, we are within the borders of Greece’.   (Derya’s story)

The central theme of the NORA Conference at the University of Iceland between May 22 and 24 was according to its organizers,


on material and symbolic borders in a period of nationalist revival,  the construction of new political, cultural and social boundaries; the shaping of border regimes gendering relations; the boundaries affecting work for social justice and equality as well as intersectional, gender, queer and feminist research

(NORA Conference, 2019)


It goes without saying that I could not have found a more relevant forum for presenting and discussing my paper ‘Feeling the real: the non nomadic subject of feminism’ and I was super excited when my paper was accepted back in January.

The experience of being at the conference however, far superseded my academic expectations. You usually go to conferences to discuss and exchange ideas on research in the making, which is of course what we did do this time again. But this conference, being a truly feminist one, crossed academic borders from the very beginning, and became a forum of protests and resistance against border practices and oppressive territorial regimes of its host university and country.

The statement that was read at the end of the last keynote succinctly summarizes this agonistic stance and made me once again feel from the depths of my heart what it is that we mean when we talk about feminist theory and praxis:

As academics and activists engaging with border regimes and feminist politics and operating in a transnational context, we assert our support for No Borders Iceland and their intervention at the NORA Conference. We strongly believe in the accountability, responsibility and non-neutrality of researchers to engage in the political struggles and lived experiences taking place in the environments in which they exist. We stand for research that is put into action. We therefore call on all participants of the NORA conference to show their solidarity with migrant justice activism and freedom of movement in general and the actions of No Borders Iceland in particular. We condemn the University of Iceland´s complicity in the border regime of the Icelandic state, and we call on the University to end its involvement in the age examinations of asylum-seekers. Finally, we support and wish to amplify the claims formulated by migrants in Iceland and call on the Icelandic government to meet their five demands:


1. The end of all deportations

2. A substantial review of all cases and the end of the Dublin regulation

3. Equal access to health care

4. A work permit while waiting for the application to be processed

5. An end to the isolation of refugees by closing down camps outside of the capital area, providing bus cards for refugees and lifting the visitors ban in camps.



Please reference as : Maria Tamboukou (2019) ‘Diffractions, June 2019, https://mariatamboukou.org/revisiting-the-nomadic-subject-2/reflections-and-diffractions/june-2019/