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2020-21 Annual Anthropology Theme

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​In 2020-21, the UD Department of Anthropology is developing a number of programs, classes, and activities around our annual theme, Bordering. We hope that students and other members of the UD community will join us in the initiatives described below!

Bordering: Centering the Marginalized

Refugees in Nakivale, Uganda repurpose oil tins donated from USAID in the construction of their homes to symbolize the borders they hope to overcome in the future

Borders are paradoxical things. Since the inception of the discipline, anthropologists have been drawn to borders: those that humans construct to categorize behaviors in cultural anthropology; those that humans materialize through objects in archaeology; those that delineate biological limits in physical anthropology; and those that humans reproduce through language in linguistic anthropology. The borders we trace through human experience tell us about more than just boundaries, however. Through attention to borders we can better understand the relations of power and inequality that structure human experience. It is only through recognizing borders that we can hope to overcome them.

The Bordering project hosted through the University of Delaware Department of Anthropology seeks to explore and examine borders in all forms. Our project is inspired by insights into bordering and borderlands.

  • Borders are "simultaneously structures and processes, things and relationships, histories and events." Kent Lightfoot and Antoinette Martinez, 1995
  • "It is the process of bordering, rather than the course of the line per se, which is important." David Newman, 2006
  • Borders "run across land but through people…. They divide and unite, bind the interior and link with the exterior." Ira Zartman, 2010
  • Borderlands are liminal, multivocal, multilocal, dynamic, contested places in which people deploy identity strategically and situationally. Hastings Donnan and Thomas Wilson, 1999

​Herrman, Augustine.  Map of Virginia and Maryland, 1670, with "Delaware" outlined in red as an indigenous homeland and colonial borderland

We understand borderlands to be material and conceptual places of many realities - dynamic, fraught, fragmented, and fascinating

We analyze the ways that borders pose limits on human experience as well as represent transformational potential. Our explorations of shared and distinctive experiences of danger, strangeness, innovation, negotiation, accommodation, reflection, and embodiment advances understandings of borderlands and the bordering processes that produce them.

Our attention to Bordering includes a suite of educational and research initiatives.

​Hostile Terrain 94 Project ~3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019

These include:

  • Hosting the Hostile Terrain 94 installation, a visual representation of the invisible violence and deaths that have occurred at the US-Mexico border, in partnership with the Undocumented Migration Project
  • Hosting visiting speakers, including Dr. Jason De León, Professor of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project (virtual, Fall 2020)
  • Teaching classes that specifically focus on borders and bordering across three fields of anthropology, including: 
    • ANTH352 (Fall 2020), Refugees and Forced Migration which explores the legal and political dimensions of forced migration
    • ANTH342 (Spring 2021), American Culture Archaeology Perspectives which examines how the material world constructs and can deconstruct borders and lives on the margins 
  • Research projects across the department, including Dr. Ramsay’s work on Bordering in Delaware, an interview project incorporating student research assistants, and Dr. De Cunzo’s archaeological work on the lower Delaware Valley as a colonial borderland and indigenous homeland

Above: Speed, John. A Map of New England and New York Sold by Tho: Basset in Fleetstreet and Richard Chiswell in St. Paul's Church, 1676. Fordham University Library. Below: Herrman, Augustine. Map of Virginia and Maryland, 1670, with "Delaware" outlined in red as a borderland



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2020-21 Annual Anthropology Theme
  • Department of Anthropology
  • 135 Munroe Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-1851
  • anthropology@udel.edu
  • Delaware Will Shine