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Sudlandisch: the borders of fear with reference to Foucault

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This article examines the term 'sudlandisch' in the German news media's description of two suspected terrorists, whose images were captured on video surveillance cameras as they were planting bombs on two German trains in Summer 2006. Strictly untranslatable in just one word, the term sudlandisch is commonly used to designate anyone who appears to come from a 'southern' or Mediterranean country, or simply anyone who appears 'brown.' However, as this article discusses, the video surveillance footage was of such low quality that this description was almost arbitrary. The images of the suspects were not any 'browner' than those of the bystanders whose images were also captured on the video surveillance footage. This article uses the occasion of this medial incident to address the problem of referentiality in Michel Foucault's notion of 'discourse,' showing how the term sudlandisch functions as a discursive formation. Focusing on the borders of discourse as the constitutive moment of discourse, this article then turns to the multiplication and dispersion of borders within the European Union. It argues that the term sudlandisch serves as just one of many borders that have been unwittingly generated by the move toward political integration in the EU.
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Keywords: European Union; Foucault; borders; discourse; sudlandisch

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages, University of California, Riverside, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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