Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Of Foucault’s six principles of heterotopias—namely, that (1) all cultures produce them; (2) their function is malleable; (3) they juxtapose incompatibilities; (4) they incorporate temporal ruptures; (5) they “presuppose a system of opening and closing”; and (6) they function “in relation to all the space that remains” (Foucault, 1986)—the fifth and the sixth bode ominously in the U.S. president’s totalizing discourse of border walls-as-national security. That is to say, to the extent that heterotopias are enacted in delimited physical sites, they may serve productive imaginary and mythological roles; however, if there is no extra-heterotopic space from which physical and discursive fields of relations can be constituted, then, clearly, foundational logics of language, thought and society have no place to begin with.
This paper reads in Donald Trump’s frequent trope that “Without Borders, we don’t have a country” such a crisis of limits in the heterotopic nation. While the xenophobic wish to “keep out crime” through the construction of a 2,000-mile physical barrier may be understood even by its advocates as as much a “metaphor” as a material demand, the material potential of Trump’s wall also plays an essential role in the drive toward a post-truth hegemonic state (Brown, 2017). Employing Iedema’s (2003) notion of resemiotization and analytic tools from mediated discourse analysis (e.g., Jones & Norris, 2005), this paper explores a nexus of recent mediatized and material discursive practices at the U.S.-Mexico border in order to map the enabling conditions of America-as-heterotopia.