Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference

Luis J. Gordo Pelaez, California State University Fresno and Charles C. Barteet, University of Western Ontario 

Barriers are an ever present reality of human creation and they have often been used as a signifier of cultural evolution. From the creation of symbol embankments that served as foundations for early structures or to demarcate socially encoded spaces, barriers have served many purposes. In United States and Europe walls are used to establish clear binaries between the privileged “us” and the demonized “other.” In both locations, thousands of miles of barriers have been built, or have been proposed, to define literally and symbolically boundaries that in turn are transforming the landscape of their borders.

Whether ancient or contemporary, walls have contributed to create barriers and borders through the redefinition of spaces, creating a sense of place and identity, demarcating physical boundaries, and imposing socio-economic hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion. In the context of early modern cities, borders and boundaries emerged as a consequence of expanding empires and colonizing efforts, the development of warfare technology and new systems of fortification, and the implementation of directives regarding the use of urban space.Whether materialized or not, barriers were a common occurrence in designs proposed by urban planners, and an instrument for defining borders and boundaries in the political and socio-economic plans of powerful regimes.

This session aims to examine the relationship between barriers, borders and boundaries in the early modern era from a global comparative perspective. Papers that address this interplay in any of its manifestations (conceptualization and building, notions of agency and perception, narrative and representation, materiality) are particularly welcome.