Australian Critical Border Studies – October 2023 Virtual Symposium

What kinds of atmospheres do borders produce? What kinds of borders do atmospheres produce?  Recent scholarship on borders has focused on abstract and conceptual implications of bordering practices and explored notions such as thresholds, tensions, im/mobilities, and multispecies concerns. Discussions have demonstrated the affective power of borders by focusing on how their inherent violence produces bodily affects. Recent work on posthuman and more-than-human borders has also shown how bodies entangle one another on the border (Pallister-Wilkins, 2022; Ozguc & Burridge, 2023; Youatt, 2020). And scholarship on biosecurity alerts us to the many scales at which borders operate, which are often invisible and outside of the human frame of attention (e.g. Barry, 2021; Liu & Bennett 2020). Despite such emphasis on mobility of borders, their affective power and more-than-human entanglements, how such violence is produced through economic and political atmospheres remains unanswered. In this symposium we seek to contribute to ongoing debates on borders through interrogating the notion of the atmospheric.

While the notion of “atmospheres” is widely used in literature on ‘affect’ (Anderson, 2009), border atmospherics (Dijstelbloem & Walters, 2021) and the bordering processes that political atmospheres are implicated in have received less attention (Closs Stephens, 2022). There are, however, numerous examples revealing such atmospherics. The border industrial complex, for example, relies on political atmospheres of crisis that propel an ongoing upholding of state-sanctioned or offshored bordering practices, that reach beyond the eyes of the general public. Then there is the nationalism that seeps through public debate, or the radicalisation that sweeps people away, which manifest as political atmospheres.

There are also ecological forms of bordering that have atmospheric qualities. In conjunction with the slow violence of climate change, borders are taking shape in unexpected environmental affects. 2022 was another year of unprecedented weather and climate events, as disasters divided communities in cities and regions around the world. The devastating floods in Pakistan saw millions of people displaced, as watery borders isolated and segmented off the landscape. Similar widespread flooding across the continent of Australia saw bordering enter public discourse again, as communities were “cut off” by temporary borders on an immense, continental scale. The recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria caused large scale displacement and forced migration, again raising questions about how geologic borders take shape, and questions around whether politics and planning take responsibility for such devastation. These are only a few examples of how social, political, economic, and ecological atmospheres are produced through bordering processes and practices while revealing the ways in which borders maintain such slippery, ephemeral presence around the world.

In this symposium we seek conversations about atmospheric borders to think more deeply about when bordering occurs due to atmospheric conditions in widely varied social, political and ecological contexts. How is research in contemporary border studies grappling with the multifaceted and extreme kinds of atmospheric events that manifest borders in such “unprecedented” ways? How do everyday political atmospheres contribute to bordering processes? What do atmospheric borders teach us about more-than-human borders? How can the conceptualisation of atmospheric borders contribute to ongoing conceptual and empirical debates in critical border studies?

We call papers on the following topics:

  • Natural disasters and bordering
  • Weather, climate change, and borders
  • Bordering through nationalism, populism, and other potent yet slippery political affects
  • Pollutants, particles, or toxic borders
  • (Revisiting) the materiality and mobility of borders
  • More-than-human atmospheres in bordering
  • Feeling borders – attention to the sensory, elemental, material affects of borders
  • Conceptual innovation on bordering: thresholds, elements, atmospheres, affects
  • Future borders – Anthropocene implications
  • The relationship between art and atmospheric borders

Empirical, conceptual, creative, or speculative papers are encouraged. Alternative formats for presenting are also welcome, please indicate in your abstract submission.

We plan to select abstracts to develop into a Special Issue proposal (journal TBC), please indicate in your abstract submission if you would like your paper to be considered for this. Please send an abstract by 23 April to Kaya Barry (

The online symposium will be held in the first week of October 2023. The exact date and time is TBC – we will try to accommodate different time zones for participants.

We look forward to receiving your abstracts!

Kaya, Ari, Umut and Andrew

Australian Critical Border Studies convenors


Anderson, B. (2009). Affective atmospheres. Emotion, Space and Society, 2(2), 77-81.

Barry, K. (2021). Declaring, scanning, sniffing, searching: Unpacking the mobility cultures of Australia’s biosecurity. Social and Cultural Geography, 23(9), 1201-1219.

Dijstelbloem, H. & Walters, W. (2021). Atmospheric Border Politics: The Morphology of Migration and Solidarity Practices in Europe. Geopolitics 26(2), 497-520.

Liu, X. & Bennett, M. (2020). Viral borders: COVID-19’s effects on securitization, surveillance, and identity in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(2), 158-163.

Pallister-Wilkins, P. (2022). Whitescapes: A posthuman political ecology of alpine migrant (Im)mobility. Political Geography, 92:102517.

Ozguc, U. & Burridge, A. (2023) More-than-human Borders: A New Research Agenda for Posthuman Conversations in Border Studies, Geopolitics.

Youatt, R. 2020. Interspecies politics: Nature, border and states. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Closs Stephens, A. (2022). National Affects: The Everyday Atmospheres of Being Political, Bloomsbury, London.

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