Bordering the Mediterranean: Liminality and Regioncraft at the Center of the World

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Virginia Tech

In this dissertation, I theorize that the Mediterranean, broadly conceived of as a geo-cultural-political entity and experience, is a locality for the investigation into the processes through which representations of continents and civilizations come into focus. A fundamental argument in this dissertation is that borders (like the Mediterranean) do not represent the limits to territorially fixed entities, but are rather continually ongoing projects that come to be negotiated and reified through political practices that are focused, in this instance, on asserting where the outside of Europe begins. The arguments of this dissertation are twofold. First, the Mediterranean is theorized as a fluid and porous space. Secondly, and more importantly, the Mediterranean is a key site for an investigation into the (re)production of politically and culturally saturated discourses of belonging and otherness. Thus, this project takes into focus three distinct, yet inextricably interrelated, processes of the borderization of the Mediterranean. These processes work to maintain the space as a global axis of sorts, upon which academic and popular discussions and representations of the East versus the West or the North versus the South emerge. It is an underlying argument of this study that links the examples of the Barcelona Process, discussions of a migration crisis, and Turkey's accession to the EU as processes of borderization of the European Union. While they are often analyzed as separate phenomena, all are indicative of these spatial and temporal borders represented by the Mediterranean, seen together they have the capability of highlighting the interconnectedness of the varying threads of Mediterraneanism. To understand how categories like European, Asian, or African come to have such salient political suggestiveness and meaning, one must bring into question how the borders that divide these imagined spaces are complex sites of the convergence of practices and discourses acquire their fortitude and who gets to tell the stories that outline their parameters.

International Relations, European Union, Turkey, Border Studies