Ethnographic Borders and Boundaries

Permeability, Plasticity, and Possibilities

by Robert E. Rinehart (Volume editor) Jacquie Kidd (Volume editor) Karen N. Barbour (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XVI, 412 Pages


Immigrants, migrants, displaced, and diasporic persons: all have been constrained or enabled by borders of some sort. This book explores international cases of how and why such boundaries come to be; who is affected by socially constructed borders; what it means to individuals and nation-states to recognise and deal with arbitrary divisions; and finally, what might be done to find – and act on – solutions to the inequity wrought by these borders and boundaries.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Drawing Lines: Bordering, Marginality, Othering Within Progressive Cultures (Robert E. Rinehart)
  • Part I Praxis and Advocacy: Doing Ethnography on the Ground 19 (Karen N. Barbour)
  • 2 Identifying with the Suffering of Others: In Search of Purifying Conversations (Arthur P. Bochner, Carolyn Ellis, and Csaba Osvath)
  • 3 Permeating the Boundaries of ‘Tradition’ in the Creation of Contemporary Rapanui, Māori, and Diasporic Samoan Theatre (Moira Sofia Fortin Cornejo)
  • 4 Between Intimacy and Independence Lies the Shadow of What It Means to Know the Familiar Other (Cecile Morden)
  • 5 Tivaevae Episto-Methodology: Use of Cultural Metaphor in Indigenous Communities (Debi Futter-Puati)
  • 6 333 Stories: A Poetic Re-telling of Hurt (Jacquie Kidd)
  • Part II Emerging Methods: Traditional, Experimental, Transgressive Forms 129 (Jacquie Kidd)
  • 7 Identifying with the Suffering of Others: Evocative Autoethnography and Compassionate Interviewing with a Holocaust Survivor (Carolyn Ellis, Arthur P. Bochner, Jerry Rawicki, and Steven Schoen)
  • 8 Yoga Philosophy Meets Feminist Theory: Methodological Choices in an Embodied and Entangled Ethnography (Allison Jeffrey)
  • 9 The Race for Colouredness in Contemporary South Africa (Heidi van Rooyen)
  • 10 Leaving Fieldwork? Musical Ethnographies and the Perpetual Insider (Christian Spencer Espinosa)
  • 11 Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces: Photography and Place-Making (Rodrigo Hill)
  • 12 A Speculative Ethnography on the Future of Education (Michael T. Hayes)
  • Part III Social Justice and Transformation: Theoretical Ethnographic Visions 249 (Robert E. Rinehart)
  • 13 Orality and Daily Insurgence (Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui)
  • 14 Letters from a Sundown Town (Synthia Sydnor)
  • 15 Building Community in Dance Education: How Curriculum, Creativity, and Relationship Matter (Sue Cheesman)
  • 16 Visualizing and Recalling Exile at the Art Installation Geographies of the Imagination (Lydia Nakashima Degarrod)
  • 17 Practices, Not Perceptions or Percentages: Arguing for Ethnographic Methods in Higher Education Gender Research (Katrina Waite, Theresa Anderson, and Mukti Bawa)
  • 18 Learning Cycles: One Narrative of Place and Education (Antonio García)
  • 19 Ethnography at the Edge of Risk (César Cisneros Puebla and Vanessa Jara Labarthé)
  • 20 A Multispecies Ethnography with Sharks (Roslyn Appleby)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index


Figure 5-1.The Kuki Airani in relation to Aotearoa

Figure 5-2.The Kuki Airani

Figure 5-3. Example of Tivaevae Tataura. Created and sewn by Tepaeru Tereora (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2016)

Figure 5-4.The underside of a Blank Canvas. Tivaevae by Temaiva, D. Photo by hk Photography

Figure 11-1.Harakeke at Te Awa River Ride. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-2.Waikato iti, source of the Waikato River. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-3.Te Awa River Ride map. Source Te Awa River Ride, used with permission

Figure 11-4.Collaborative portrait by the Waikato River. Source: Rodrigo Hill

Figure 11-5.Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces installation, Ramp Gallery, 2018. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-6.First version of Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces, 2017. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-7.Draft installation design and sequence for Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces, 2018. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-8.Semi-final installation design and sequence for Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces, 2018. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018←NaN | xii→

Figure 11-9.Sequence detail, Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-10.Te Awa River Ride, Ngāruawāhia section. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-11.Waikato River studies. Source: Rodrigo Hill 2018

Figure 11-12.Let Light Create Imaginary Spaces installation at CEAD 2018

Figure 16-1.Rosita’s memories, by Lydia Nakashima Degarrod. Geographies of the Imagination, 2008

Figure 16-2.Jaime’s memories, by Lydia Nakashima Degarrod. Geographies of the Imagination, 2008

Figure 16-3.Geographies of the Imagination exhibit, Oliver Art Center, California College of the Arts, 2008

Figure 18-1.Reflecting pathways

Figure 18-2.Connection between school and environment

Figure 18-3.Going back home

Figure 18-4.Garden in the faculty


General gratitude/el agradecimiento/nga mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa/imibulelo emininzi kubo bonke: to our wonderful contributors to this volume; to all Association of the Contemporary Ethnography Across the Disciplines members, hailing from English, Spanish, Māori, and isiXhosa-speaking individuals and countries; to Caitlin and Matt, our ‘privatised’ copy-editors; to our publisher, Peter Lang, and particularly Laurel Plapp, who has been astounding; to our own faculties and support groups; and to our families.

Many thanks to the international CEAD committee members, and particularly Antonio, Andres, Elisa and Claudia. –Karen

In a year of international turbulence related to Covid-19, racial violence and protest, and economic uncertainty I want to acknowledge the grace and strength of the CEAD community. In particular, I am grateful for the sustained efforts made by the authors who have crafted chapters for this volume. Thank you for the gift of your creativity and the work you have shared with us all. Ngā mihinui ki a koutou. –Jacquie

Deep gratitude to Karen, Jacquie, Clive, Antonio, our outstanding keynotes throughout the years. Many thanks to Amy Fitzgerald, who was the glue that held it all together. –Bob

Robert E. Rinehart

←0 | 1→1

Drawing Lines: Bordering, Marginality, Othering Within Progressive Cultures


This chapter is an exploration of the concepts of bordering, margins, power relationships – among and between nation-states, communities, factions, cults, groups of people, and individuals, even on a cellular level. It is meant as an opening up and flowering of our ideas of how living things create community and possibility, or wallow in greed, separation, avarice, and self-aggrandizement. It is, thus, speculative in nature, and with it, I mean to set a tone for possibility and progressive values that may be realized throughout the book.

Proem: Terms of endearment
. . .we are all one,
national boundaries
and national hatreds
must disappear. . . .

Howard Zinn 2006, 265

We knew as soon as she was elected that there was something different about Jacinda Ardern. Prime Minister of New Zealand at age 37, she grew up in Morrinsville, on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, raised and reared in the rolling green hills and farming sensibilities that characterize both the local region – Waikato – and the nation itself. But when she spoke at the United Nations, we recognized her global reach, her charismatic presence.

As an emerging leader of a thoughtful, yet decidedly pensive, generation, Prime Minister Ardern brought an interesting blend of home-truths, pragmatic decision-making – inflected with a huge respect for Indigenous ways of knowing – that startled and energized many citizens and leaders from the Global North (United Nations 2018). She cemented her leadership status with pitch-perfect personal and public responses to the horrific Mosque killings in Christchurch. Through her own grace and empathy, PM Ardern transcended and bridged race, gender, ethnicity, religious ←1 | 2→preferences, and class – and arguably began a healing process between divided factions almost single-handedly.

In her United Nations maiden address, Ardern had crossed an ineffable line, an imaginary border that citizens (and leaders) of the Global North often fail to recognize: their assumptions begin with the ethnocentric ‘truth’ that the Global North is the centre, all else is the margins. Edward Said spoke of this symbolic binary in simply arguing for the (complex) recognition of Palestine and Palestinians and their right to exist (1979). His advocacy, however, for that specific case could be applied generally to peoples who are – symbolically, geographically, linguistically, behaviourally, economically, and so on – marginalized, made to feel ‘othered’ by a dominant group: Syrians, Kurds, Mapuche, Maōri, and San people. The list goes on of how humans create and insist upon ‘pecking orders’ – hierarchical structures – that limit potential, constrain hope and possibility, and stifle free will while simultaneously concentrating power, privilege, and control. In the most extreme cases, of course, the borders, walls, boundaries that are designed and built – both overt and covert, deliberate and unintentional, tangible and diaphanous, conscious and unconscious – result in great loss of life and loss of habitable earth.

The very nature of walls, borders, and so on insists on distinctiveness between (possibly) several things, from the macro to the micro: planetary systems, planets, nation-states, regions and/or territories, enclaves, cities, townships, and other cultural and social artefacts. But it can also imply distinctions between humans and other living species, between humans and non-living objects, or simply between humans. With the latter, the borders begin to, by definition, include political persuasions and leanings, passions and histories, belief systems, and usage of resources. How might we characterize these terms ‘border’ and ‘bordering’ and ‘boundaries’?

We may look at them metaphorically: borders, bordering, permeability. If we begin a sociological, human-centred discussion of these concepts by a reference to the metaphor of cells – both animal and plant – we can explore some of the components that make up human/other borderings. For example, rigid cell walls in plants work to both constrain, define (e.g., fluid directional flow), and provide structure. Semi-permeable membranes in animal cell walls provide structure, purpose, both constraints ←2 | 3→and opportunities, and a sort of fluidity that is more complex than that of plant cells. At the cellular level, the enclosures and exclusions work to form the very structure of life itself:

The material composing the surface membrane of a living cell is held together by electrical forces similar to those involved in macro-molecular processes. This enclosing membrane ensures that the salinity of the internal contents of the cell remains within permissible limits. Hardly more substantial than a soap film, it is as effective a barrier to leakage of the cell’s constituents as the hull of a ship to water or the fuselage of an aircraft to the outside atmosphere. However, the watertightness of a living cell is achieved by quite different means from that of a ship’s hull. That latter works mechanically and statically; the cell wall does its job by active and dynamic use of biochemical processes. (Lovelock 1979, 84–5)

Obviously, borders and walls and boundaries can be constraining or enabling, preventative or facilitative. This is important to keep in mind as we discuss the human-crafted forms of walls and borders: who benefits? who loses? what would happen if we inverted the relationships?

The intent(s) of a wall or a border, either real or imagined, may be discovered. Certainly, though borders work to constrain both insiders and outsiders on a daily basis, their initial raison d’etre is to limit the freedoms of an outsider group. Such is the initial rationale for ‘gated communities’. Gated communities, in the United States, citing Lauer (2005), Wilkinson and Pickett (2010), write, ‘American attitudes toward crime and violence, an admiration for rugged individualism and […] mistrust [link with] growing numbers of gated communities’ (58). But, while walls constrain others from ‘getting in’, they also restrain the self from ‘getting out’, as we have recently seen with the Coronavirus-19 pandemic.

The constraints may be accomplished through intimidating gestures and non-verbal language, physical restraint from forward movement, confirmation of identification papers at border checkpoints, and refusal to speak (or learn) the ‘outsider’ (or non-dominant) language – even imprisonment (as in the United States’ so-called detention camps at its Southern Border during the Trump Administration). Many methods have been developed to tell a non-insider that s/he does not belong, or is not welcome, in this homeland. In other words, the insider seems to be saying, This is our land, ←3 | 4→not yours. Anything less than 100 per cent acceptance, unconditionality, is a message of unequal power relations.

As well, quite often, while the marginalized and de-centred group is shunned by the dominant group, their material and intellectual resources are exploited and colonized. It may result in a brazen form of cultural or personal theft, as in the Nazi’s confiscations of Jewish personal items (eyeglasses, wigs, teeth), land, and valuable artefacts. The bordering – or marginalization – may range from a symbiotic relationship where resources (oil, minerals, water) are taken with money exchanged, to a highly belligerent state where war or armed conflict occurs (e.g., Le Billon 2001), with the intended result being a violent wresting or stealing of resources. But intellectual poaching may also evidence the results of this othering, albeit in less overtly violent ways. The exodus of Eastern European intellectuals to the west prior to World War Two, of Germans post-WWII, and the Velvet (or Gentle) Revolution in the Czech Republic in 1989 are three examples of (relatively) non-violent movement or migrations across borders (e.g., Paikert 1962; Velvet Revolution Exhibition 2020).

Yet, Virilio (1997) cautions us about these tangible borders. He warns that the coming city will demonstrate a ‘merger of disconnected metropolitan fringes into a single urban mass’ (382). The ‘borders’ between ‘here and there no longer mean anything’ (383). His futuristic musings imagine this:

we are now witnessing the deterioration of the cities as regional centres. […] Predicted for the last forty years, this deregulation of the management of space comes from an economic and political illusion about the persistence of sites constructed in the era of automotive management of time, and in the epoch of the development of audiovisual technologies of retinal persistence […] what used to be the boundary of a material, its ‘terminus’, has become an entryway hidden in the most imperceptible entity. (384–5)

The invisibility of such borders, the intangibility of them, makes them more surveillant, deadly, and onerous than physically sensed borders.

Historically, ‘bordering’ has other names. Though there are nuances to the cases and examples (and many are discussed in authors’ chapters within this volume), such actions and terminologies as colonization, occupation, settler population, and genocide, holocaust, and extermination fit into ←4 | 5→the loose rubric of ‘othering’ peoples and resultant acts, simply because of their group memberships.

One of the keys to understanding the process of bordering and boundary making is to see similar patterns. Despite the horrific individual cases of violence – including rape, so-called ethnic cleansing, intimidation, state-sanctioned murder, and incarceration – the configurations all have one element in common: the use of power.

Power relations and marginality
Within complex and ever shifting realms
of power relations do we position ourselves
on the side of colonising mentality? Or
do we continue to stand in political resistance
with the oppressed, ready to offer
our ways of seeing and theorising, of making
culture towards that revolutionary effort
which seeks to create space
where there is unlimited access to the pleasure
and power of knowing,
where transformation is possible?
This choice is crucial.

bell hooks 1989, 15

When I was three I disappeared. Disappeared into foster homes
and never made it back until I was twenty-five.
[…] At twenty-five years old I never figured on bein’ no Indian.
I didn’t remember a thing about my earlier life
and when I disappeared alone into the foster homes
I disappeared completely from the Indian world.

Richard Wagamese 1994, 12, 16

The blithe throwaway line that George W. Bush used in reference to a ‘coalition of the willing’ was meant to solidify – but also serve as subtle warning – the support for the US’ ‘invasion of Iraq’ (Schifferes 2003). Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a show of wishful thinking, said at the time, ‘I hope that [coalition members] will all be able to do everything that is possible within their means to support the coalition militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically.’←5 | 6→

Even ensconced within the rhetorics of ‘a crucial appearance of international legitimacy for the Iraq War’ (Newnham 2008, 183), the participation of what ultimately became sixty-three-member nation-states was criticized for being not a Coalition of the Willing, but, rather, a Coalition of the bribed and the bullied. According to Newnham, incentives offered these ‘mostly small, poor countries (183) […] included offers of economic and military aid, trade and investment links, lucrative military bases, reconstruction contracts, and repayment of Iraqi debts’ (2008, 184). These ‘carrots’ were combined with ‘threat perceptions’ (198) to create the sense of large support for the vastly unpopular invasion of Iraq.1 This informal arm-twisting at the diplomatic level has been going on for years from United States presidents. G. W. Bush’s efforts were simply clumsy; Trump has made very little effort to embrace diplomatic means of coercion.

Let’s examine the concept of ‘power’ for a moment. Joseph S. Nye, Jr, writes:


XVI, 412
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (July)
Ethnography diaspora cultural studies anthropology sociology social justice transformation agency Ethnographic Borders and Boundaries Robert E. Rinehart Jacquie Kidd Karen N. Barbour
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XVI, 412 pp., 14 fig. col., 9 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Robert E. Rinehart (Volume editor) Jacquie Kidd (Volume editor) Karen N. Barbour (Volume editor)

Robert E. Rinehart initiated the Contemporary Ethnography Across the Disciplines Association (ACEAD) and hui. Retired, he was Associate Professor at the University of Waikato and Washington State University. Jacquie Kidd, currently President of ACEAD, is Associate Professor at Auckland University of Technology. She researches from a Kaupapa Maōri perspective and studies health inequity issues in Aotearoa New Zealand. Karen N. Barbour, Associate Professor in Dance at the University of Waikato, examines creative practice in the arts, embodiment, women’s holistic wellbeing, and dance. She has been involved in ACEAD as a committee member since its inception.


Title: Ethnographic Borders and Boundaries