antiAtlas Journal #2 - 2017

Glass Borders

Johan Schimanski

Johan Schimanski is a literary scholar and border researcher who has participated in the EU and Norwegian research projects EUBORDERSCAPES and Border Aesthetics. He is Professor of Comparative Literature and Head of Research for the Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages at the University of Oslo. He is also part-time research Professor of Cultural Encounters at the University of Eastern Finland, as part of the Bordering, Mobilities and Cultural Encounters (BOMOCULT) research area. Together with members of the Border Aesthetics research project coordinated by UiT The Arctic University of Norway, he has recently published the collaborative book Border Aesthetics: Concepts and Intersections, Berghahn, 2017.


Keywords: Literature, narratives, aesthetics, trauma, deportation, borders, research, migrations, unregistered migrants, borderscapes, in/visibility, internment.

A photo taken by the author through the window of a plane taking off from Oslo (Gardermoen) airport in March 2017. The deportation holding facility (Politiets utlendingsinternat) at Trandum is partly visible in the lower left corner of the window.

To quote this paper: Schimanski, Johan, "Glass Borders", published on December 10, 2017, antiAtlas Journal #2, 2017, Online, URL:, last consultation on date

I. Borderscapes and borderscaping

a. Divisions of the sensible

1One of the strengths of the ‘borderscape’ concept, as it has been developed in recent work on borders and bordering (Brambilla 2015b, Brambilla et al. 2015, dell’Agnese and Amilhat Szary 2015, Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2007, Schimanski 2015), is that it brings into the discussion of borders central aesthetic concerns: seeing and shaping. The ‘scape’ element of the term has been extracted out of the English word ‘landscape’, something which is seen; and at the same time it is etymologically connected to the English word ‘shape’ (Brambilla 2015a) and also to the German schaffen, ‘to create’.

Following a conceptual introduction, I will be analysing some recently published migration narratives in Norwegian. As I trace their figurations of the border as a landscape of windows, mirrors and lenses, I will be relating the aesthetic practices they constitute to more political and social concerns. I thus return to Jacques Rancière’s description of politics as a “partage du sensible” (2004), that is to say, a distribution of that which can be sensed and made sense of. The common translation of the French partage, ‘distribution’, suggests a limited resource subjected to political power and interests; it is worth pointing out however, that the word can also mean both ‘division’, suggesting the cutting aspect of borders, and ‘sharing’, suggesting the possibility of contact which is also present (though often not so dominant) in the border concept (cf. Rancière 2010, 36). I would argue that partage is also a form of shaping. Rancière’s use of the French sensible (‘sensitive’, but also ‘that which can be sensed’) points to aesthetics, which in one of its senses can be defined as the field of the ‘sense-able’ (Welsch 1997), and thus, among other things, of seeing.


b. In/visibile, in/audible

2Every borderscape is a specific partage du sensible, in which cultures and technologies of perception contribute to the bordering process (Pötzsch 2015). The borderscape involves medial borders, i.e. the boundaries of specific media, through which that which is sensed is selected and shared (Schimanski 2006). When we are thinking in terms of landscapes, the medium is often thought of as the visual, and in politics one often talks of the visibility of power, of minority constituents, etc. (cf. Amilhat Szary 2012). However, the fact that politics is often thought of as a space in which one must have a voice to be heard or be able to tell one’s story suggests that the “politics of aesthetics” (Rancière 2004) involves at least two and probably more senses. The borderscape is both visual and sonic.

Every borderscape is a specific partage du sensible, in which cultures and technologies of perception contribute to the bordering process.

If we transfer this thinking from a discussion of aesthetics as the field of the senses to aesthetics as the field of art and literature (Welsch 1997), we might connect art to vision and literature to hearing, even though this would be to simplify the medial hybridities of both art and literature. Where migration and borders are concerned, this is a common form of reduction, positing art as a means of making visible, and literature as a means of making heard; though as Rancière argues (2010, 156-157), part of the political power of literature to disturb dominant discourses is that its ‘mute’ letters are writable by anybody and readable by anybody, disrupting established regimes of the audible as direct vocal address. We must also be aware of the flipside of the two dominant senses we are following here. For while the mediums of art and literature, where contemporary migration is concerned, are usually identified with bottom-up expression and solidarity with migrants, we must not forget the mediums of power and border securitization which also are connected with surveillance (making migrants visible) and interrogation (forcing migrants to tell their stories, cf. Mekdjian 2016). In addition, anti-migration standpoints can be associated with the visual spectacle of border walls and the audible rhetoric of soundbites.

The borderscape, as a relational network of actants (both human and non-human) involved in the bordering process, can be defined as a political/aesthetical regime in which things are both seen and shaped. The borderscape regulates the division between the visible and the invisible, between the audible and the inaudible (Brambilla and Pötzsch 2017). Seen as a dynamic process of ‘borderscaping’, the borderscape can make the invisible visible, revealing for example injustices and giving voice to experiences. But the difficulties with accessing hegemonic discourses mean that the borderscape can also silence voices and keep the invisible invisible. In spite of these ambivalences, the borderscape/borderscaping concept is still relevant to processes of democratization, for understanding and changing the borderscape is the only way of changing border policy and providing a corrective to border spectacles in Europe and elsewhere. Chiara Brambilla and Holger Pötzsch emphasize how the particularities of the audio-visual borderscape can allow for different strategies and tactics: “Visibility can be thought of as framed social practice that is based on contingent discursive determinations and can be either oppressive or progressive in its effects” (2017, 70). Moreover, with reference to the conditions Hannah Arendt identifies as prerequisites for political participation and citizenship, some visibilities can be pathological, in that they paradoxically combine visibility as naturalized (e.g. ethnicized or racialized) bodies with invisibility as public subjects (Borren 2008, 214, Brambilla and Pötzsch 2017, 72-73, 85). One of the aims of the working package on “Border Crossings in Culture Production” within the research project EUBORDERSCAPES ( has been precisely to help us imagine new modalities of visibilization resistant to surveillance.


c. Reflexivity

3What the case studies in the EUBORDERSCAPES working package have helped us understand is also the reflexivity of the borderscape. As a space of the sensible, the borderscape involves seeing and hearing as well as more concrete actors and constituencies. The etymological bond to the term landscape emphasizes the complex self-referentiality of the borderscape. A ‘landscape’ can mostly mean three things: a topography, the view of a topography, or the framed image of a topography (it is in fact the third meaning which is original in English, since the word landscape came from the Dutch in connection with the practice of landscape painting, see Larsen 2014). The implication for the borderscape is that it consists of a social reality which includes representations of the social world, both realistic and imaginary. The borderscape, like the landscape, is a mix of the representation and that which is represented. It involves a wide range of political activities, from those of democratic representation (in representative democracy, giving a vote or what in Norwegian is called a stemme, a 'voice' when electing people as representatives of political constituencies to sit in a parliament, which is literally a place where things can be spoken and made audible, from French parler, ‘to speak’) to those of imagined possibilities. Where the border is concerned, the borderscape involves both the border itself and (visual and narrative) representations of the border. Indeed, a border becomes a border through a process of representation or being made ‘sensible’ (Larsen 2007).


II. Published migrant narratives in the borderscape

a. Becoming authors, crossing into the public sphere

4Borderscaping is also about crossing the border into the space of democracy and the political, the public sphere. I have argued elsewhere (2016) that most contemporary published migration narratives in Norwegian, such as the ones examined here, describe the border-crossings made by migrants travelling to Norway, even though these journeys may be convoluted and lengthy, involving not only the crossing of topographical borders, but also the crossing of cultural and symbolic borders. Part of these narratives, often actually described in the narratives themselves, concerns the crossing into the public sphere through the act of writing. The narrative – and the act of border-crossing it constitutes – usually concludes with a description of how the author became an author. Publishing their narratives becomes the last step in their journey, symbolic of their (considerable, if not always complete) integration into Norwegian culture. In the autobiographical or testimonial book Ulovlig norsk (2010, “Illegally Norwegian”) the pseudonymous Maria Amelie describes her upbringing and education as a 1.5 generation migrant in Norway, all the while having the status of a so-called ‘illegal migrant’ (the paradox of the oxymoronic title relativizes this contested concept). Towards the end of the book, the author tells of how she starts a blog (165), and how she is encouraged (by social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen) to write a book about her experiences (Amelie 2014, 174) – the book the reader is reading. The book ends by implication with her ultimate crossing into the public sphere, as the book she has written will be prepared for publication, and with her about to become a public person outside the virtual realm of her blog on the internet.


The cover of Maria Amelie's Ulovlig norsk (2010) with half portrait image of Amelie symbolizing a transition from invisibility to visibility. Amelie’s image echoes that of her namesake in the film Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (dir. Jeunet 2001) as played by Audrey Tatou (Myhr 2015, 321). Reproduced by permission of the publishers.

5Public narratives of this kind also have the important function of making private experience public in a way controlled by their authors. In order to understand the usefulness of such autobiographical or fictional narratives (sometime combining both aspects), it is helpful to locate them in relationship to the different levels of discourse (Jäger 2001) which dominate our societies, and to how these relate to the different temporalities in a political world.

Public narratives of this kind also have the important function of making private experience public in a way controlled by their authors.

The mediatization of a historical event such as specific forms of migration will take place on a number of levels approximately ordered temporally in relation to the event itself. Thus, the mass media reception of an event (which is often what makes the event into an event, see Bösch 2010) takes place on a rather short time scale, to be followed (hot on its heels) by reception in debates and documentaries, then more slowly in art and academic studies, and usually later in literary retellings and finally in history books. This ordering puts literary representation of migration at what seems to be a disadvantage in a quickly transforming world, often seemingly outdated. At the same time, however, it makes literary narratives a privileged space of representation, in which the spectacularization involved in more immediate and transient representations can be relativized and perceived in a more longue durée perspective. Literary analysis becomes one way of moving the study of mediatized migration beyond coverage studies (cf. Horsti 2013, 90).


b. Two recently published migrant narratives in Norwegian

6Aspects of the testimonial narratives which make up part of the Norwegian corpus of published migration literature can point to the quicker temporalities of debate and documentary, because they are often meant to document experience and to argue polemical points. Two of the authors I look at here, Amal Aden and the aforementioned Maria Amelie, both originally told their stories of border-crossing as documentarists writing under pseudonyms, with Aden retaining anonymity in order that she could publish her story without being exposed to the threat of violence on the part of certain actors within Somalian communities in Oslo, and Amelie having established and appropriated her name as part of her cover while living as an undocumented migrant. In 2014 and 2015, they both published new books, which, even though they were delayed in relationship to the events they described, both included short references to very contemporary boat migration across the Mediterranean (Aden and Syvertsen 2015, 82, Amelie 2014, 113).

These two books have many differences. Amal Aden’s Jacayl er kjærlighet på Somali (2015, “Jacayl is Love in Somali”), co-written with novelist Håvard Syvertsen, is a fictional “story” (fortelling), which presents some of the themes of repressive family structures in Somalia and in the Somalian diaspora which have also been the themes of Aden’s more documentary books (2009, 2010, 2011). It is a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story set in an honour culture, the consequences of which are intensified by capitalism and the conflict between economic classes. The title of Maria Amelie’s Takk (2014, “Thank You”) indicates the book’s status as a performative act; following on the previous Ulovlig norsk, it describes in documentary (if overtly subjective) fashion the process of deportation which was later followed by Amelie’s reentry into Norway, after a minor amendment to government instructions concerning immigration law which has been called ‘Lex Amelie’ (Justis- og politidepartementet 2011). The book is both a ‘what happened next’ and a ‘thank you’ to all those who showed their solidarity with Amelie throughout this highly mediatized process. A combination of factors contributed to the creation of a media spectacle around Amelie’s case, “one of the most covered issues in Norway in modern times” according to media scholars Audun Beyer and Tine Ustad Figenschou (2014, [5]). These factors included her fame as a blogger and as the author of Ulovlig norsk, media framings in terms of a vulnerable person’s struggle against the system, representations of her as an ideal successful, de-ethnicized and assimilated migrant, and sponsorship by a variety of vocal individuals, groups and social media users (Beyer and Figenschou 2014, Berntzen, Marius Rohde-Johannessen, and Godbolt 2014, 16, Ugelvik 2013; for similar cases of de-ethnicization and un-marking, see Horsti 2013). The creation of a national icon out of an illegalized migrant, not unique to Amelie’s case and context (cf. Rosello 1998, 142), stood in contrast to the many other deportations going on at the same time, ignored by the media. There was also a media backlash as suspicions were raised as to her status as somebody who has broken the law, and how advisable it might be to create an exception out of her case (Ugelvik 2013, 77-78).


c. Telling other’s stories

7Strikingly, both Aden’s and Amelie’s books break out of rigidly autobiographical frames by attempting to make visible other, less successful migrants, and let their stories be heard. In Aden’s Jacayl one of the main characters becomes a boat migrant and later dies in a work-related incident in Italy, but this story is told in such a purposefully offhand way, in a defocalized, summarizing and retrospective mode of narration, that boat migration is despectacularized in this novel. The fictional narrative, which mainly deals with events in Somalia, is told from the point of view of the USA diaspora by the homodiegetic narrator, who is a relative of the dead man’s girlfriend. A major part of Amelie’s Takk takes place in a fairly-well-known deportation holding facility at Trandum by the main Oslo Airport at Gardermoen, and the retelling of the stories of the other interned inmates by the autobiographical narrator constitutes a counterpoint to Amelie’s own story of trauma and the costs of the spectacularization of her case, the latter being especially extreme when contrasted to the invisibility of other internees. In both books, questions of narrative position and focalization are central to their partages du sensible, to their ‘distributions of the sensible’, of what can be sensed, and constitute their medial borderings, linked to the topographical border-crossings in each story.


III. Figuring in/visibility

a. Border figurations

8My analysis here will focus mainly on Amelie’s Takk, which, while it follows a more straightforward aesthetic regime than Aden’s Jacayl with a realist (and indeed documentary) first person mode of narration, has embedded in it both the stories of other refugees, as already mentioned, but also a number of striking images which function as figures and configurations of changing concepts of borders. Figural language involves a symbolist repetition of motifs, forming isotopies that criss-cross a text and bring together and juxtapose different fields. Direct use of metaphor or simile also becomes a way of connecting different fields through a process of semantic transfer. Figural language is often viewed as secondary, ornamental and lacking in impact, especially within hegemonic discourses that attempt to police the border between the political and aesthetical. Within the partage du sensible paradigm however, aesthetics is seen as central to the political, and here I will be looking for the political entailments of figural language, produced through processes of connotation.

Takk involves many border figures, but one which is often repeated in the book is that of glass borders, an image which I will argue is strongly related to aesthetics and representation.

The element of repetition in such figural language makes it suitable for the representation of the extended, disseminated processes of border-crossing which migration involves (and which is often concealed by the spectacle of heavily mediatized so-called migrant crises, see De Genova 2012). Takk involves many border figures, but one which is often repeated in the book is that of glass borders, an image which I will argue is strongly related to aesthetics and representation, and thus becomes symbolic for the border-crossing experiences of the author in her journey out of Norway (and back again) and in her journey from the private and the secret and into the public and published.


The cover of Maria Amelie's Takk (2014), with full portrait images of Amelie symbolizing full visibility. Reproduced by permission of the publishers.

b. The crystal frontier

9Before I attend to Takk, I would however like to explore the figure of glass borders in two other migration narratives, one of which is by the before-mentioned Aden. Early on in Aden’s book Min drøm om frihet: En selvbiografisk fortelling (2009, ”My Dream of Freedom: An Autobiographical Narrative”), the main character and narrator sees a glass wall in a government office in Oslo. She has just arrived in Norway and has been taken by two other Somalis to register at the child welfare services, the concept of which is incomprehensible to her: ”We walk in through a door, and I see a woman sitting behind a glass wall, almost like they sat at the airport”. This is the first time she meets and talks with – or is talked to by – white Norwegians: ”We go into a small room with the white ladies. We sit down around a table, and now they all speak Norwegian. I do not understand anything. The only word I recognize is my name”.

What we may recognize is the image of the glass wall or divider, manifesting a form of border. In feminist discourse, a metaphorical glass ceiling allows women pursuing careers to imagine reaching further in the hierarchy, but bars them from actually moving upwards. In French discourse on ethnic minorities’ lack of access to the work market in France, one similarly talks about a glass ceiling (le plafond de verre). In the story ”La frontera de cristal” (”The Crystal Frontier”) by Carlos Fuentes, part of the novel of the same name (1996, 187-213, trans. 1999, 166-189), a male guest worker from Mexico and a female office worker in New York have an encounter and attempt to communicate with each other, but any true meeting is prevented by physical, but also highly symbolic glass wall: she is standing inside the building, while he is washing its windows, neither able to hear the other. In Aden, in feminist discourse and in Fuentes, the glass divide forms a border with a specific epistemological dimension – the border is transparent and almost invisible – which simultaneously stands for a power relationship and for a form of exclusion. In Aden and Fuentes at least, the glass wall also signifies a lack of signification and an audio-visual border: people communicate across the divide, but do not understand each other. Aden’s book contains within it an indictment of the Norwegian child protection services as ill-prepared to deal with or listen to young refugees from other cultures and linguistic spheres.

In both Min drøm om frihet and “La frontera de cristal”, the glass wall actually exists in either a non-fictional or fictional world, and is not a metaphor. In both cases however, as we have seen, the glass wall is given a symbolic dimension, indicating a form of partial access without true participation. The glass wall is the flip side of a border figuration developed by Jacques Derrida, “appartenance sans participation” (“belonging without participation”, 1992); note the etymological element part- shared with Rancière’s concept of partage above. This symbolic dimension is furthermore strengthened by a metonymical connection to the national border. The image of the glass wall in Aden and in Fuentes is a version of the national border, topographically displaced in a way typical of borders and border figures, indicative of the way in which national borders form, and are formed by, extended borderscapes. In Aden’s text, the image of the glass wall would have had less weight in this reading if it had not been for the added clause in the above quote, ”almost like they sat at the airport”. This is a reference to a description, only a few pages previously, of Amal’s entrance into Norway via an airport: ”We stand in a queue, and Hassan talks in the strange [merkelige] language with a lady sitting behind a hatch”. The border to Norway, itself displaced topographically from the outer edges of the nation to an international airport near the capital city, is repeated on a symbolic level as a difference of culture which Amal will meet continually throughout her life in Norway. This symbolic border is given topographical materiality through an architectural detail, itself a topographical border on a micro scale, which is allowed to function as a border figure.


IV. Deportation trauma

A photo of the Trandum facility taken by the author through the window of a plane taking off from Oslo airport in May 2017.

10A border control booth at an airport can be seen as an inversion of the less known territory of a deportation internment facility such as Trandum. In Amelie’s Takk, the sense of alienation that is involved in the ‘glass wall’ metaphor is inserted in the middle part of the narrative, a limbo preceded by Amelie’s arrest and internment (imprisonment without trial), and followed by her deportation from and eventual return to Norway. The themes addressed by the use of the glass figure in this period of limbo spent in the internment centre, with short periods in court and at home, are those of identity, privacy, media spectacle, state control, trauma and representation. Glass in the form of partitions, windows, mirrors and camera lenses become part of the complex of borders inside national territory which defines the life of the illegalized migrant (cf. De Genova 2002, 439, Boe 2016, 328).


a. Surveillance

11State control in the form of surveillance is figured through glass already before Amelie arrives at the Trandum deportation centre, where she learns that her home location has been identified by the police through a photograph of flowers on a windowsill, which she has placed on her blog, i.e. before the end of the story narrated in her first book. In the photograph, buildings on the other side of the street, as seen through the window from Amelie’s point of view in the flat, made it possible for the police to locate her and thus keep her under surveillance from their point of view outside the flat (16). Notably, the book’s initial description of Amelie’s arrest begins in a sentence describing the point of view of Amelie and a group of people discussing paperless migrants in a café in Lillehammer: “We looked in the direction we wished to see”. The group do not see the policemen arriving to arrest her: “I did not see the five men getting out of the car and walking towards us”. In both cases, ‘making visible’ becomes the direct opposite of empowerment, with the police seeing Amelie without her seeing them, and is rather experienced as an intrusion into privacy, a symbolic disruption of the legal principle of habeus corpus (where bodily borders are central, see Görner 2007, 62-63), often in the form of a threatening male gaze. Throughout her internment, the police and guards at Trandum are mapped by Amelie for this kind of attempted intimacy or attempted normality. Continually, individual state actors express identification with Amelie, making jokes or ironic reference to holding facility conditions and systems (23, 27), in order to lighten the division between them. They act as if they were in a situation where they met on equal terms, contrasting public duty to personal ideals. One of them shares with Amelie the contents of her dreams about unlocking and locking the doors of the facility (27), and explains while watching over Amelie’s process of putting on make-up that she does so because of the rules, but also that it is “nice to get some tips”. The police try to create sympathy, but cannot empathize; they attempt to reestablish everyday human subject positions, within a context in which such subject positions are threatened through their own actions.


b. Reversed surveillance

12During her original arrest, one of the policemen seems to try to make contact by referring to Amelie’s previous book, the act by which she made herself visible in the public sphere: “‘We have of course read your book’, said the tall policeman on my right side”. Amelie’s reaction to this statement, which is accompanied by a smile, some curiosity, and a nod from one of the other policemen, is analytical and ambivalent: she “did not know whether to be flattered or worried”. The worry that the police may have their own reasons for reading the book is implicit, while the possibility of flattery points to the public spectacle she has initiated by going public with her story. In attempting at intimacy, the police and other state representatives cross their own private/public borders, but in a surreptitious way. Amelie resists this surveillance by reversing the gaze, surveilling her surveillors.

One of the policemen seems to try to make contact by referring to Amelie’s previous book, the act by which she made herself visible in the public sphere.

A policewoman who “introduced herself in a nonchalant manner, as if we were at a conference”, is described as having “a nice smile, and uniform, like all the others”. What Amelie attempts in response is a fragmented, limited and informal variant of the backstage ethnographic survey of Trandum guards and their need to legitimate their actions carried out later by criminologist Thomas Ugelvik (2016). Such reversed gazes, however fragmentary, can potentially make visible the workings of the law, which in social science research has been the object of a “stunning invisibility” (De Genova 2002, 432). The notebook which Amelie succeeds in having with her throughout her stay in Trandum, the basis of the published book, is the instrument with which she carries out her reverse surveillance.


c. Traumatic surveillance

“Registration of an asylum-seeker at the police station [Politivakta]”, photo March 11, 2016. Published on the Flickr account of the National Police Immigration Service (Politiets utlendingsenhet) 2013, and reproduced with their permission.

13The section dealing with Amelie’s stay at Trandum begins with the same kind of glassed-over combination of epistemological access and frustrating topographical lack of access we have seen in Aden’s Min drøm om frihet. Through a window in the “uncanny” or “unfriendly” (uhyggelig) room which is the final crossing to the inner part of the facility, Amelie see two policemen in an office: “Thick glass barred the way between them and the rest of the entranceway”. This space is followed by the humiliation of a full body search in a naked state, without bodily contact, but involving a large, square mirror placed on the floor (20-21). The glass of the mirror splits her identity, having an effect which might be illustrated by Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytical concept of the ‘mirror stage’ (1977), by which the child becomes a subject through acknowledging its own identity, but also by undergoing the violence of losing its common identity with the mother. The search room is placed on the border-crossing between public space and the interior of the holding facility, and Amelie has to go through the degrading ritual not only on her first arrival there, but also each time she returns in a police car from the court rooms in Oslo. Her narrative reveals the affective dimension of the search and the split in her identity, with a performative incantation doubled through repetition: I am not my body. I am not my body. The ‘natural’ visibility of her body gets in the way of her ability to see herself as a (potentially public) subject; her self is traumatically replaced by an image. The humiliation is also underlined when, in an act of ironic defamiliarization, she uses a vulgar term to describe a part of her own body, one of the possible aims of the external gaze of the body search (23). The trauma of the body search results in her later not being able to look herself in the bathroom mirror (22).

Such traumatic effects are repeated. At one point, she imagines herself as “a doll stuffed with cotton”, a bodily border with no inside, literally with no organs: “I felt as if somebody had pulled innards and muscles and veins out of my body”. She is “cut off” (avskåret) from anybody or anything which might give her a sense of identity (47). She experiences a sense of abjection similar to that commonly experienced by 1.5 generation illegalized migrants when they come of age and discover they are not as assimilated in their societies as they thought they were (Gonzales and Chavez 2012).

As her stay in the internment facility goes on, Amelie’s experience is increasingly expressed through many figures of cutting the borders of her body, accompanied by bodily affects and symptoms such as rage, cold sweats, weeping, angst, dizziness, black-outs, lip-biting, numbness, shaking, icy sensations, nausea, cramps, swaying backwards and forwards, etc., along with fantasies of non-existence, death, self-harm and attempted suicide. The outer borders of the nation have become mobile, closing in on her body and psyche. The borders appear right beside her in the arrest which opens the book: “Four men formed a semi-circle between me and my friends […] so coordinated that it felt almost like a dance”. The police car used during the arrest becomes a border enclosing her body, which causes bodily pain in her need to go to the loo (14-17). During later transports, to and from the courts, she stares out through the glass borders of police-car windows (33). The Trandum/airport-complex within Norwegian territory also constitutes a national border, folded in from the outer edges of Norwegian territory, a border fold made for holding bodies. Ultimately, captivity and the threat of deportation encourage Amelie’s fantasies of cutting herself, so that she would be sent to hospital (63). Glass again becomes central to the narrative when she imagines breaking a bathroom mirror or a window and using a glass fragment to pierce the borders of her own body (64).


d. Traumatic mediatization

14However, these glass borders are not just related to physical captivity. It becomes increasingly clear that Amelie’s symptoms of forced neurosis are not only related to the threatening aspects of the surveillance, but also to the mediatization she is subjected to throughout the court case, with (often well-meaning) journalists crowding the thresholds of court rooms and the internment facility. Seeing footage on the glass of a television screen of herself being arrested, she “had to laugh a bit”, as she “looked like one of those idiots one shows in American films: ‘Help, call my lawyer!’”. Outside the courts she visits during her stay in Trandum, the media create a “circus” (sirkus) and again she ironizes the spectacle by figuring it as part of an American film (26). The glassy border of the “black, lifeless depth of the camera lenses” divides her from the media. Mobile topographical borders are complemented by mobile epistemological borders.

For the media, Amelie represents the opportunity to overcome the challenge of visualizing the illegalized migrant. But for her on a personal level, the outside gaze creates a traumatic split between herself and an image of herself.

For the media, Amelie represents the opportunity to overcome the challenge of visualizing the illegalized migrant (cf. Rosello 1998, 139). But for her on a personal level, the outside gaze creates a traumatic split between herself and an image of herself. It connotes a feeling of emptiness, consolidating the in-between border limbo in which she finds herself located. She writes: “It was as if my, Maria Amelie’s, existence had ceased and been substituted by the ‘Maria Amelie Story’”. Both within the media spectacle and in the camp, she is forced into the subject position of ‘bare life’ (Agamben 1998): “Somebody had stolen all my feelings and instead released an animal instinct for survival”.


V. Making other migrants audible

a. Paradoxical publicity

15Amelie shows her resistance to glassy-lensed surveillance and mediatization by attempting to go against expectations. In another scene on the border between the outside and inside of Trandum, she hides her true emotions by showing a small smile while being photographed with a webcam, denying her captors the pleasure of gratifying stereotypical expectations (20). However, and perhaps because she now experiences the paradoxes involved in representing herself in the media, it is also during her internment that she begins her rudimentary project of representing others, in this case the other deportee migrants she meets there. This need to consider a larger collectivity comes partly from questions posed by the press themselves, about whom she represents and what her politics are. She has previously found such questions difficult and painful to answer, because, as she points out, the political questions are too close to her own experience and while writing her the blog and book which has made her case famous, she did not know any other paperless migrants (29) – besides her own parents, presumably. The polemical and performative edge of the book becomes clear when she generalizes from her own situation. Indeed, as literary scholar Ellen Rees (2016) has argued with reference to postcolonial and black theory, both of Amelie’s books are performative self-representations aimed at ‘passing’ as Norwegian, ultimately also mimicking what is known as ‘ScanGuilt’ (a Scandinavian culture of guilt about, and need to compensate for, being globally privileged, see also Oxfeldt 2016). On a structural level, the Maria Amelie-‘affair’ may have thus done the same as the mediatized church asylum cases in Finland which Karina Horsti examines, “reinforc[ing] the existing imaginary borders of a Nordic society and its depicted ‘other’” (2013, 80). However, I would argue that parts of Amelie’s text provide an escape from this economy, especially when reversals of the gaze represented through various glassy borders make visible the way in which her guards share with her the act of passing (as normal), as well as the guilt.


b. The burden of representation

16Directly on her arrest, Amelie generalizes the situation at Trandum onto a larger scale: “I had read that there were such ‘Trandum’-places all over Europe”. This project comes out of a feeling of privilege and indeed shame and guilt, whether false or real. She feels that her previous book has caused problems for other paperless migrants, including her own parents: “I had already destroyed their fragile, paperless reality by writing the book […]". While suffering various physical forms of humiliation, Amelie envisages others, including her parents (also under risk of deportation) undergoing the same ordeals (22), and later she learns of the real travails of her parents during her deportation period (97-99). She finds the stories of other illegalized migrants often more intense than that of herself, and emphasizes that the paperless are too heterogeneous for her to represent (30), and that her own story “was not complex enough to cover and represent all the paperless”. She wonders whether (as a highly mediatized deportee) she was treated with “silk gloves” (silkehansker) at Trandum, and thus how representative her story is (113). But at the same time, the fact that the media desire her as somebody they can phone and ask about the experience of the paperless, and that the publication of her previous book has made the paperless more visible, gives her a sense of responsibility (30), even though she feels at points that her efforts may ultimately be ineffective (100). Some of her problems with the media spectacle correspond to the public scepticism to it which Beyer and Figenschou (2014) have traced in their survey-based study of human-interest fatigue in the coverage of her case; while this public scepticism was primary based on perceptions of the sheer volume of the coverage, and less on a critique of paparazzi-style and sensationalistic journalism, it shared with Takk a critical focus on privileging the individual before the group. In her critique of the criminalization of migrants, Amelie carries the burden of ideally having to vertreten (represent in the sense of ‘stand for’), without subjecting the migrants to darstellen (represent in the sense of ‘depict’), the two versions of representation the postcolonialist theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak discusses in her critique of ‘giving voice’, “Can the Sub-Altern Speak?” (1988). Rhetorically, she is a synecdoche (pars pro toto) of illegalized migrants as a group, but because of the way the public sphere is structured by the frame of “individual life stories” (cf. Horsti 2013, 80), it is impossible for her to be the typical, structural illegalized migrant; she must be their interpreter.


“At the airport during a return”, photo 22 November 2013. The image may be contrasted to the cover of Amelie’s book, with its frontal portraiture. Published on the flickr account of the National Police Immigration Service (Politiets utlendingsenhet), and reproduced with their permission.

17Amelie’s book does however provide ways of paradoxically making visible the invisibility of the clandestine, illegalized migrant (cf. Rosello 1998, 145-148).

Amelie’s book does however provide ways of paradoxically making visible the invisibility of the clandestine, illegalized migrant.

Early during her stay at the deportation facility, she meets an Armenian family and sees a Chechen family. One of the policemen who attempts to rehumanize his own role, suggests that she should try to talk to the son of the Armenians, “[h]ear what kind of story he had”, and while the reader may have grounds to suspect his motivations in asking her of this, she promises to do so. The short fifth chapter of the book is a short retelling of the story told by the son of the Armenian family, in which we read the son’s voice in direct discourse. The short narratorial synopses and interpretations peters out when Amelie senses that she cannot say anything – a silence which is of course also possible to interpret: “I was speechless”; “I did not know what to say. From the point of the arrest I had had difficulties finding words, formulating sentences. There were far more intense stories than mine out there, stories more tragic than mine, which no newspapers wrote about”. Later she also gives voice to the story of the father of the Chechen family (59), and a Rwandan-Italian interned on attempting to visit a friend in Norway (71). The encounter with a young Korean woman symbolizes however the problem of giving voice to others – nobody there knows Korean, so nobody can communicate with her. Amelie’s solution is to give the woman a note pad; when the women is frustrated at Amelie’s not understanding her writing, Amelie responds by giving her the note pad as a gift, so that she can at least write for herself (70), as Amelie also does.


VI. Alienation

18Amelie also imagines the many people who, while she is captive in the Trandum facility, are demonstrating on the streets in her support, towards whom the subsequent “thanks” of the book’s title partly goes. In doing so she again becomes aware of her role as a symbolic figure who is also accused of being privileged: “Repeatedly I was accused: the enormous engagement in my case was due to my being white, attractive, resourceful, well-integrated and speaking perfect Norwegian”. This encourages her responsibility towards “those who were left on the other side, inside Trandum, whom nobody interviewed and nobody wrote about”

When she is let out of the camp on a form of parole (before her ultimate deportation), her sense of alienation is generalized. She is “two Marias”.

When she is let out of the camp on a form of parole (before her ultimate deportation), her sense of alienation is generalized. She is “two Marias” (“to Maria”), one happy to be free and the other joyless at her own feeling of hypocrisy at being free while others have been left behind inside (76). She can see her whole body in a mirror, but this gives her pain (77), and Trandum has imprinted itself as post-traumatic stress, manifested as she sees herself naked over the mirror in the search room (78).


a. Restaurant windows

19At one point (80), her narrative clearly echoes, without explicit reference, the classic Norwegian literary locus of social alienation: Sigbjørn Obstfelder’s modernist poem “Jeg ser” (“I see”, 1893). Using an anaphoric repetition of Jeg så (“I saw”) in combination with other sensing-verbs, echoing Obstfelder’s anaphoric repetition of Jeg ser (“I see”) in his poem, she describes sitting with her boyfriend in an expensive restaurant with large (glass) windows, listing the different bourgeois surfaces of the guests, food and eating utensils (including the “sterile and transparent glass of water”):

"We walked […], and ended up at an expensive restaurant with large windows. I saw [Jeg så] how the light flooded into the room. I saw [Jeg så] several people in suits. I heard [Jeg hørte] fragments of conversations, clearly of great importance for those speaking. I looked [Jeg så] at the food, beautifully arranged, served on porcelain plates. I saw [Jeg så] the sharp metal cutlery and the sterile and transparent glass of water. I felt [Jeg følte] that I came from another planet, but I did not know which my own planet was either any more".

Like Obstfelder’s poem, the passage ends with the image of being on another planet. The large restaurant windows are associated with a form of sociality in which the aim is to see and be seen, something which Amelie’s mediatized and monitored condition makes problematic. Rees interprets this scene as an allegory of not quite belonging to Norwegian society (2016, 200); my reading, tracing across the text the isotopic connections the glass motif makes between the state, the media and society, suggests a tension between this allegorical reading and one of a more general and traumatic (self-)estrangement arising out of Amelie’s captivity and subjection to media spectacle. The anaphoric ‘I saw’ reproduces the fragmentary effect of traumatic images, countered partly by a slight adjustment to phrasing in the following paragraph, as Amelie is recognized and given gestures of solidarity on the street. Here the fixed, neurotic and alienated ‘I saw’ changes to the more integrated, in Norwegian syntactically reversed, ‘everywhere saw I’ (overalt så jeg): “Everywhere I saw that people smiled at me".


I saw/heard/felt ("Jeg så/hørte/følte"), Maria Amelie's Takk (2014), p. 80.

b. Aquarium

20Later Amelie is relieved to see the faces of other illegalized migrants on the glass of her television screen, people stepping forward in the media in the wake of her incarceration (80). Traumatic affect in the form of jumpiness and weeping return in this period of limbo before deportation (see also Rees 2016, 200), when she sees cars similar to the one she was arrested in through the window of her flat, and once, while registering with the police, as she talks to a woman behind a booth (Amelie 2014, 83) – the latter presumably behind a glass screen, though this is not specified. In this state, she is removed:

"I registered [Jeg registrerte] everything which happened around me, smiled, listened, at the same time as if I were in an aquarium. I heard [Jeg hørte] only silence. I saw [Jeg så] that the people outside the glass wall moved their lips, the people near me talked, but I was dumb, I heard [jeg hørte] no noises, and not my own voice. The silence had a paralysing effect, like a virus or illness that was spreading slowly to all parts of the body and paralysing everything from the fingertips to the large muscles and stopping the blood".

She is behind the glass wall of an aquarium, repeating again the phrases “I saw” and “I heard”, in a state of numb (fish-like?) silence. As she points out, she could not share the pain, represent it, to anybody (85). She can see, but she cannot share. Also when she is deported, there is a disjunction between vision and acknowledgement in her relation to the police officers around her who want to greet her, while she “stared down at the floor and felt unease at the thought of shaking hands with them”. The glass walls are only removed once she is on the plane together with her boyfriend: “it was as if the glass walls which had been erected in my world burst, as if I could see clearly and plainly for the first time in my life".



I saw/heard/registered ("Jeg så/hørte/registrerte"), Maria Amelie's Takk (2014), p. 84.

c. Mirror

21Later, as she begins to write down the story of her life at Trandum (like her previous book, Takk includes in it its own writing), she is able to cry again about what had happened (97). Only in the book’s epilogue, describing her state after deportation and reentry into Norway, is she able to look at herself in the mirror. She cannot however see herself:

"I look [Jeg ser] at myself in the mirror, I look [jeg ser] closer, I move my gaze from my head, over to my eyes, to the pupils, I look [jeg ser] at my tight mouth that lies in a line, I look [jeg ser] at my whole face, I look and look and look [jeg ser og ser og ser], and I fail to see [jeg klarer ikke å se] myself. I am Alice in Wonderland".

Again, the text echoes Obstfelder’s poem of alienation with its use of the anaphoric ‘I see/look’ (also in the following paragraph, not quoted here) and the evocation of being outside the normal world. Her mouth is shut, and all she can see is her public self as a naturalized body, along with her instruments of seeing: her eyes with their pupils, repeating the news media’s camera gaze on her image.


I see/look ("Jeg ser"), Maria Amelie's Takk (2014), p. 117.

VII. Strategies of despectacularization

a. Expression/surveillance

“My question is if we’ll get into trouble if it ends up on the internet.” From the metafilmatic section of the EUBORDERSCAPES film The Colour of the Sea (2015), directed by Keina Espiñeira in collaboration with migrants in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco. Reproduced by permission of the director.

22  In discussing the paradox of making visible/exposing oneself, it is worth pointing to another example, the short film The Colour of the Sea: A Filmic Border Experience in Ceuta (2015) produced by Keina Espiñeira for the EUBORDERSCAPES project, focusing on the experience of African migrants caught in the border limboscape of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco. This film may initially be mistaken for a documentary, but is in fact a collaborative art work made together with the migrants which succeeds in despectacularizing the border. One of the most telling moments caught through the camera is a metanarrative discussion between several of the migrants of the possibility that the film may be used to identify and cause problems for them at a later point. This example also points to the paradox of representation, in which ‘making visible’ can suddenly become ‘being subjected to surveillance’.

One of the most telling moments caught through the camera is a metanarrative discussion between several of the migrants of the possibility that the film may be used to identify and cause problems for them at a later point.

In Takk, the duty of representation is mixed with its shame, along with the challenges involved in representing such a heterogeneous selection of individuals. However, it seems in keeping with the ‘thank you’ of the book seen as a performative act that Amelie attempts, however partially, to balance out the representation of the illegalizeds by complementing the media spectacularization surrounding her own case as a cause célèbre. The heterogeneity of the internees surrounding her corrects the reduction of illegalized migrants to a simple narrative of an identifiable and sympathetic individual.


“We are always very careful with everything we do”, from The Colour of the Sea (2015). Reproduced by permission of the director.

b. The view through the window

“The outer area for families with children is screened off from the rest of the holding facility [internatet]”, photo 21 May 2013. Published on the flickr account of the National Police Immigration Service (Politiets utlendingsenhet), and reproduced with their permission.

23  This attempt to counter spectacularization with despectacularization is connected to a sense of being somebody or leaving others ‘left on the inside’, further figured through images of glass. Through the windows of the internment centres, Amelie describes seeing planes transporting mobile and privileged citizens across borders (Trandum is clearly visible when flying into or flying out of Gardermoen). Through the window from her cell, she can see the planes taking off, but not landing (25). The ironic juxtaposition of immobility and mobility on national borders is expressed already in her first encounter with the place: “Right beside it I could see Gardermoen with its long airstrips". While being interviewed by the press under police guard on the threshold of the detention facility, Amelie imagines the people she has got to know inside, but also “the single asylum-seekers [i.e. men without families] on the second floor with windows facing towards the whole media circus". These ironic images of windows are displaced further as she sees the windows of her flat in Oslo from the windows of a police car (33). Later, when she becomes a legal resident in Norway and is able to travel across borders for work and pleasure, the Trandum-airplane gaze is reversed, though her vision is still traumatized: “I look [Jeg ser] out of the window. I look [Jeg ser] and look and I do not want to see. I turn away. I look [Jeg ser] again. But I do not see it. Trandum. It happens each time I fly". Again she repeats the act of seeing anaphorically in her sentences.

Amelie feels it is imperative to see and to listen in order to access the experiential dimension of paperlessness. In addition, she attempts to map state employees – the police, guards and bureaucrats – who are ‘only doing their job’ (13, 40, 71, 114) and may have “different opinions about the job", but at the same time bear responsibility for what is going on (110). As Amelie is driven to the airport with her boyfriend to be deported, she observes how a young policewoman mirrors Amelie by weeping at the sight of Amelie weeping. The policewoman, in her mimetic trauma or traumatic infection, repeats the phrases: “You must understand that we don’t have anything to do with this. We are only here to do our jobs". In seeing and in listening to both migrants and police, Amelie faces the challenges constituted by the aesthetic regime of literature, of how to place oneself as a narrator on the border between intrusive and empathic representations.


I see/look ("Jeg ser"), Maria Amelie's Takk (2014), p. 106.

VIII. Through different windows

The deportation holding facility at Trandum, showing airport and facility border fences. Photo: Tommy Gildset (Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

24In her contribution to and overview of ‘window studies’ (“Fenster-Forschung”, 2014, 40), Gianna Zocco has pointed to various functions of the window motif in literature and culture. Several of these are traceable in Amelie’s Takk, as pointed at in the readings above. Looking through a window reminds one of the fact that our sensorium is always framed, subjective, perspective-bound (Zocco 2014, 12-13). Furthermore, the window reminds us of the power differential (129-130) marking epistemological and aesthetic (‘sensible’) relationships: the other on the other side of the window is objectified, made unreal, fantasized, etc. (13). The glass allows for participation without belonging or vice versa, in Amelie’s case creating a liminal position for her to inhabit (Ugelvik 2013, 81). As Zocco points out and finds central to her modern corpus of novels, there is a long tradition of gendering the window, in scenes where a male gaze observes a woman in a private interior through a window (69-107). In these and in other window scenes, there is always the possibility of a reversed gaze: whether one is looking in or looking out through a window, one might be seen (13-14, 286). This is one of the most striking features of Amelie’s use of the window and its companion mirror figure: the way it conveys the power relationship between making oneself visible in the political sphere and being subjected to surveillance, or between being monitored and monitoring the monitor. Her strategies of reverse surveillance and providing alternative divisions of the sensible by giving voice to others provide partial ways out of this predicament.

Where Amelie’s previous book Ulovlig norsk articulated her invisibility (cf. Brambilla and Pötzsch 2017, 81) and caused a minor change in the legal regime of the border, helping a small number of migrants,Takk changes the borderscape through its glassy border images. Like the hunger strike by two Afghan asylum-seekers in front of the Finnish parliament building examined by Saara Pellander and Karina Horsti in their article on visibility in mediated borderscapes, Takk is not an everyday act of bordering, but allows Amelie to “bring bordering into the everyday consciousness” (Pellander and Horsti 2016, [1]). Takk is not only a statement of gratitude, but also an imperative, as Amelie suggests listening more to migrants and also to the various agents of the border, most explicitly in the final pages of the book (111-114). Takk asks us to despectacularize and dereduce migrants, to resist the tendency to ‘natural’ visibility combined with public invisibility, often accompanied by the illegalized’s desire for “self-obscuration” (Borren 2008, 232; see also Pellander and Horsti 2016, 5, Boe 2016, 323).

This is one of the most striking features of Amelie’s use of the window and its companion mirror figure: the way it conveys the power relationship between making oneself visible in the political sphere and being subjected to surveillance, or between being monitored and monitoring the monitor.

Amelie’s book compensates for the moving of events out of time and fragmentation of the narrative or image of the self as described in trauma theory (Langås 2015, 24-25, 98-99, Brison 1999, Bal 1999, ix, Baer 2002, 1-14), in Takk connected to the fixed images produced both through media spectacle and surveillance. As a text on the white pages of a book, her text presents an alternative ‘window’ to the world, taking place on a different discourse level than that associated with the monitor screens and virtual windows through which we consume the news media (cf. Zocco 2014, 28, 37-38). The ‘slower’ medium of the book allows for a more creative act of borderscaping, in line with the schaffen dimension of the aesthetic, while the audible effects of textual narrative, as exemplified in the anaphoric phrasing, gives a vocal dimension to Amelie’s act, which also counteracts image fixation. Introducing new techniques of partager du sensible (“distributing the sensible”) the book makes visible and audible more protective alternatives to hegemonic aesthetic/political regimes.



25For their timely comments, I would like to thank participants at the EUBORDERSCAPES conference in Barcelona and the “Borderscapes, Memory and Migration” workshop in Kirkenes, the latter financed by a grant from the Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS). The “Traumatized Borders” kick-off seminar in Joensuu also helped develop new lines of thought. Special thanks go to Ulrike Spring and Carolina Sanchez Boe for both reading through the manuscript and making many highly useful suggestions, and to Per Pippin Aspaas for acting beyond the call of duty at a vital moment. Research for this article was made as part of the EU Frame Programme 7 SSH-2011-1 Area 4.2.1 project EUBORDERSCAPES (290775) work package on “Border Crossings and Cultural Production”. The three paragraphs on Aden’s Min drøm om frihet and Fuentes’ “La frontera de crystal” are taken (with light adaptations) from an EUBORDERSCAPES working paper (Schimanski 2016).




Aden, Amal, 2009, Min drøm om frihet: En selvbiografisk fortelling, Oslo, Aschehoug.


Aden, Amal, 2010, Se oss: Bekymringsmelding fra en ung norsksomalisk kvinne, Oslo, Aschehoug.


Aden, Amal, 2011, Det skal merkes at de gråter: Om likestilling blant somaliere i Norge, Oslo, Aschehoug.


Aden, Amal, and Håvard Syvertsen, 2015, Jacayl er kjærlighet på somali: En fortelling, Oslo, Aschehoug.


Agamben, Giorgio, 1998, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by David Heller-Roazen, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press.


Amelie, Maria, 2010, Ulovlig norsk, Oslo, Pax.


Amelie, Maria, 2014, Takk, Oslo, Pax.


Amelie, Maria, and Terje Mortensen, 2017, "Amelie: Som å få livet tilbake," VG, 31.01.2017, 22.


Amilhat Szary, Anne-Laure, 2012, “Walls and Border Art: The Politics of Art Display,” Journal of Borderlands Studies 27 (2), p. 213-228, doi: 10.1080/08865655.2012.687216.


Aspunvik, Sofie Grand, Dennis Ravndal, Tor Erik H. Mathiesen, and Ridaya Bayal, 2017, "Regelendring etter Maria Amelie-saken: 12 har fått opphold i Norge," VG, 31.01.2017, 22.


Baer, Ulrich, 2002, Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.


Bal, Mieke, 1999, “Introduction,” in Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present, edited by Mieke Bal, Jonathan V. Crewe and Leo Spitzer, vii-xvii, Hanover, NH, University Press of New England.


Berntzen, Lasse, Marius Rohde-Johannessen, and James Godbolt, 2014, “Understanding Internet Use in Grassroots Campaigns: Internet and Social Movement Theory,” in User-Centric Technology Design for Nonprofit and Civic Engagements, edited by S. Saeed, Cham, Springer, p. 15-24.


Beyer, Audun, and Tine Ugstad Figenschou, 2014, “Human-Interest Fatigue: Audience Evaluations of a Massive Emotional Story,” International Journal of Communication 8, p. 1944-1963.


Boe, Carolina Sanchez, 2016, “From banlieue Youth to Undocumented Migrant: Illegalized Foreign-Nationals in Penal Institutions and Public Space,” Criminology & Criminal Justice 16 (3), p. 319-336, doi: 10.1177/1748895816650480.


Borren, Marieke, 2008, “Towards an Arendtian Politics of In/Visibility: On Stateless Refugees and Undocumented Aliens,” Ethical Perspectives: Journal of the European Ethics Network 15 (2), p. 213-237.


Brambilla, Chiara, 2015a, “Dal confine come metodo del capitale al paesaggio di confine come metodo per un’opposizione geografica al capitalismo / From Border as Method of Capital to Borderscape as Method for a Geographical Opposition to Capitalism,” Bollettino della Società geografica italiana 13 (8), p. 393-402.


Brambilla, Chiara, 2015b, “Exploring the Critical Potential of the Borderscapes Concept,” Geopolitics 20 (1), p. 14-34, doi: 10.1080/14650045.2014.884561.


Brambilla, Chiara, Jussi Laine, James W. Scott, and Gianluca Bocchi, 2015, “Introduction: Thinking, Mapping, Acting and Living Borders under Contemporary Globalisation,” in Borderscaping: Imaginations and Practices of Border Making, edited by Chiara Brambilla, Jussi Laine, James W. Scott and Gianluca Bocchi, Aldershot, Ashgate, p. 1-9.


Brambilla, Chiara, and Holger Pötzsch, 2017, “In/visibility,” in Border Aesthetics: Concepts and Intersections, edited by Johan Schimanski and Stephen F. Wolfe, New York, Berghahn, p. 68-89.


Brison, Susan J., 1999, “Trauma Narratives and the Remaking of the Self,” in Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present, edited by Mieke Bal, Jonathan V. Crewe and Leo Spitzer, Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, p. 39-54.


Bösch, Frank, 2010, “Europäische Medienereignisse,” Europäische Geschichte Onine (EGO).


De Genova, Nicholas, 2012, “Border, Scene and Obscene,” in A Companion to Border Studies, edited by Hastings Donnan and Thomas M. Wilson, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, p. 492-504.


De Genova, Nicholas, P., 2002, “Migrant “Illegality” and Deportability in Everyday Life,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31, p. 419-447.


dell’Agnese, Elena, and Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, 2015, “Borderscapes: From Border Landscapes to Border Aesthetics,” Geopolitics 20 (1), p. 4-13, doi: 10.1080/14650045.2015.1014284.


Derrida, Jacques, 1992, “The Law of Genre,” in Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge, New York: Routledge, p. 221-252.


Espiñeira, Keina, 2015, The Colour of the Sea: A Filmic Border Experience in Ceuta, Spain, El Viaje Films / EUBORDERSCAPES / Department of Geography, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Short film.


Fuentes, Carlos, 1996, La frontera de cristal: Una novela en nueve cuentos, México, D. F., Alfaguara.


Fuentes, Carlos, 1999, The Crystal Frontier, London, Bloomsbury.


Gonzales, Roberto G., and Leo R. Chavez, 2012, “Awakening to a Nightmare”: Abjectivity and Illegality in the Lives of Undocumented 1.5-Generation Latino Immigrants in the United States,” Current Anthropology 53 (3), p. 255-281, doi: 10.1086/665414.


Görner, Rüdiger, 2007, “Notes on the Culture of Borders,” in Border Poetics De-limited, edited by Johan Schimanski and Stephen Wolfe, Hannover, Wehrhahn, p. 59-74.



Horsti, Karina, 2013, “De-ethnicized Victims: Mediatized Advocacy for Asylum Seekers,” Journalism 14 (1), p. 78-95, doi: 10.1177/1464884912473895.


Ihlen, Øyvind, and Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud, 2014, “Making News and Influencing Decisions: Three Threshold Cases Concerning Forced Return of Immigrants,” European Journal of Communication 29 (2), p. 139-152, doi: 10.1177/0267323114523149.


Justis- og politidepartementet, 2011, "Instruks om tolkinga av utlendingslova § 71 andre ledd tredje punktum – oppheving av innreiseforbod for faglærde i visse tilfelle," Accessed 31.01.2017,


Jäger, Siegfried, 2001, “Discourse and Knowledge: Theoretical and Methodological Aspects of a Critical Discourse and Dispositive Analysis,” in Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, edited by Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer, London, SAGE, p. 32-62.


Lacan, Jacques, 1977, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytical Experience,” in Écrits: A Selection, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, p. 1-7.


Langås, Unni, 2015, Traumets betydning i norsk samtidslitteratur, Bergen: Fagbokforlaget/Landslaget for norskundervisning.


Larsen, Janike Kampevold, 2014, “Geologic Presence in a Twenty-First-Century Scenic Garden,” Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes 34 (1), p. 85-100, doi: 10.1080/14601176.2013.850296.


Larsen, Svend Erik, 2007, “Boundaries: Ontology, Methods, Analysis,” in Border Poetics De-limited, edited by Johan Schimanski and Stephen Wolfe, Hannover, Wehrhahn, p. 97-113.


Mekdjian, Sarah, 2016, “Les récits migratoires sont-ils Encore possibles dans le domaine des refugee studies? Analyse critique et expérimentation de cartographies créatives,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 15 (1), p. 150-186.


Myhr, Annika Bøstein, 2015, "Memories Out of Place and Season: England, Germany, Russia, Estonia, and Norway in Migration Literature since 1989," PhD Dissertation, Institutt for lingvistiske og nordiske, studier, University of Oslo.


Obstfelder, Sigbjørn, 1893, “Jeg ser,” Digte, Bergen, John Griegs forlag, p. 15-16.


Oxfeldt, Elisabeth, 2016, “Innledning,” in Skandinaviske fortellinger om skyld og privilegier i en globaliseringstid, edited by Elisabeth Oxfeldt, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, p. 9-31.


Pellander, Saara, and Karina Horsti, 2016, “Visibility in Mediated Borderscapes: The Hunger Strike of Asylum Seekers as an Embodiment of Border Violence,” Political Geography, p. 1-10 [article in press], doi: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.01.005.


Politiets utlendingsenhet, 2011, "Månedsstatistikk desember 2011: Uttransporteringer fra Norge," Politiet Accessed 16.03.2017,


Pötzsch, Holger, 2015, “Seeing and Thinking Borders,” in Borderscaping: Imaginations and Practices of Border Making, edited by Chiara Brambilla, Jussi Laine, James W. Scott and Gianluca Bocchi, Aldershot, Ashgate, p. 217-227.


Rajaram, Prem Kumar, and Carl Grundy-Warr, 2007, “Introduction,” in Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge, edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram and Carl Grundy-Warr, ix-xl, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.


Rancière, Jacques, 2004, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, Translated by Gabriel Rockhill, London, Continuum.


Rancière, Jacques, 2010, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, Translated by Steven Corcoran. London, Continuum.


Rees, Ellen, 2016, “Den norske skyldfølelsen i Maria Amelies Ulovlig norsk og Takk,” in Skandinaviske fortellinger om skyld og privilegier i en globaliseringstid, edited by Elisabeth Oxfeldt, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, p. 188-205.


Rosello, Mireille, 1998, “Representing Illegal Immigrants in France: From clandestins to l'affaire des sans-papiers de Saint-Bernard,” Journal of European Studies 28 (109-110), p. 137-151, doi: 10.1177/004724419802810910.


Schimanski, Johan, 2006, “Crossing and Reading: Notes towards a Theory and a Method,” Nordlit (19), p. 41-63.


Schimanski, Johan, 2015, “Border Aesthetics and Cultural Distancing in the Norwegian-Russian Borderscape,” Geopolitics 20 (1), p. 35-55, doi: 10.1080/14650045.2014.884562.


Schimanski, Johan, 2016, "Changing Borders in Published Migration Narratives in Norwegian," EUBORDERSCAPES Accessed 7 June 2016.


Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 1988, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, p. 271-313.


Ugelvik, Thomas, 2013, “Hvem er Maria Amelie? Fortellinger om ulovlighet,” in Krimmigrasjon? Den nye kontrollen av de fremmede, edited by Nicolay B. Johansson, Thomas Uglevik and Katja Franko Aas, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, p. 65-83.


Ugelvik, Thomas, 2016, “Techniques of Legitimation: The Narrative Construction of Legitimacy among Immigration Detention Officers,” Crime, Media, Culture 12 (2), p. 215-232, doi: 10.1177/1741659016648180.


Welsch, Wolfgang, 1997, Undoing Aesthetics, Translated by Andrew Inkpin, London, SAGE.


Zocco, Gianna, 2014, Das Motiv des Fensters als Öffnung ins Innere in Erzähltexten seit 1945, Berlin, Weidler Buchverlag.





1. 50 other people are deported to Moscow the day after Amelie is deported (Ihlen and Thorbjørnsrud 2014, 139-140). In 2011, the National Police Immigration Service carried out 4744 forced deportations from Norway (Politiets utlendingsenhet 2011, [1]).


2. ”Vi går inn en dør, og jeg ser at det sitter en dame bak en glassvegg, nesten slik som de satt på flyplassen” (Aden 2009, 38). All quotes in English from Aden and Amelie are my translations.


3. ”Vi går inn på et lite rom med de hvite damene. Vi setter oss ned rundt et bord, og nå snakker de alle norsk. Jeg forstår ingenting. Det eneste ordet jeg kjenner igjen, er navnet mitt” (38).


4. Thanks to Carolina Sanchez Boe for pointing this out to me.


5. ”nesten slik som de satt på flyplassen” (38).


6. ”Vi står i kø, og Hassan snakker det merkelige språket med en dame som sitter bak en luke” (35).


7. Historically, in Amelie’s Takk we are not talking about the same airport as in Aden’s Min drøm om frihet, since at the time of Aden’s arrival to Norway, Oslo airport was situated at Fornebu.


8. ”Vi så den veien vi ønsket å se” (Amelie 2014, 9).


9. “Jeg så ikke de fem mennene som steg ut av bilen og gikk mot oss” (9).


10. ”fint å få litt tips” (28).


11. ”‘Vi har jo lest boken din’, sa den høye politimann på min høyre side” (12).


12. ”visste ikke om jeg burde ble smygret eller bekymret” (12).


13. ”presenterte seg selv på en nonchalant måte, som om hun var på en konferanse”; ”et fint smil, og uniform, som alle de andre” (22).


14. ”Et tjukt glass sperret dem fra resten av rommet som utgjorde inngangspartiet” (19).


15.Jeg er ikke min kropp. Jeg er ikke min kropp” (21, italics in the original).


16. ”en dokke stappet med bomull” (47).


17. ”jeg følte at noen hadde dratt innvoller og muskler og blodårer ut av kroppen min” (47). Cf. also p. 58.


18. “Fire menn dannet en halvsirkel mellom meg og vennene mine […] så samkjørte at det føltes nesten som en dans” (9).


19. ”Jeg måtte le litt. Jeg så ut som en slik tulling man viser på amerikanske filmer: ’Help, call my lawyer!’” (26, English phrase in the original).


20. ”svarte, livløse dypet av fotolinsene” (36).


21. ”Det var som om min, Maria Amelies, eksistens opphørte og ble erstattet av ’Maria Amelie-saken’” (47).


22. ”Noen hadde stjålet alle følelsene mine og i stedet plassert ut et dyrisk overlevelsesinstinkt” (47).


23. “Jeg hadde lest om at slike ‘Trandum’-steder fantes overalt i Europa” (11).


24. ”Jeg hadde allerede ødelagt den skjøre papirløse virkeligheten deres ved å skrive boken […]” (15).


25. ”var ikke kompleks nok til at den kunne dekke og representere alle papirløse” (30).


26. ”Høre hva slags historie han hadde” (40)


27. ”Jeg var målløs” (45); ”Jeg visste ikke hva jeg skulle si. Helt siden arrestasjonen slet jeg med å finne ord, med å formulere setninger. Det fantes langt sterkere historier der ute enn min, historier mer tragiske enn min, som ingen aviser skrev om” (46).


28. ”Gjentatte ganger ble jeg beskyldt for at det enorme engasjementet for min sak skyldtes at jeg var hvit, pen, ressurssterk, godt integrert og snakket perfekt norsk” (49).


29. ”de som var igjen på den andre siden, inne på Trandum, som ingen intervjuet og ingen skrev om” (74).


30. ”Vi gikk […] og endte opp på en dyr restaurant med store vinduer. Jeg så hvordan lyset flommet inn i lokalet. Jeg så flere mennesker i dress. Jeg hørte bruddstykker av samtaler, uten tvil av stor betydning for dem som snakket. Jeg så på maten, pent dandert, servert på porselenstallekener. Jeg så det skarpe bestikket av metall og det sterile og gjennomsiktige vannglasset. Jeg følte at jeg kom fra en annen planet, men jeg visste heller ikke hva som var min planet, lenger” (79-80).


31. ”Overalt så jeg at mennesker smilte til meg” (80).


32. ”Jeg registrerte alt som skjedde rundt meg, smilte, hørte på, samtidig var det som om jeg befant meg i et akvarium. Jeg hørte bare stillhet. Jeg så at menneskene utenfor glassveggen beveget leppene, mennesker i nærheten av meg snakket, men jeg var stum, jeg hørte ingen lyder, og ikke min egen stemme. Stillheten virket lammende, som virus eller sykdom som sakte spredde seg til alle kroppsdeler og lammet alt fra fingertuppene til de store musklene og stoppet blodet.” (84-85)


33. "bare stirret ned i gulvet og følte ubehag ved tanken på å ta dem i hånda” (87).


34. ”det var som om de glassveggene som var blitt satt opp i min verden brast, som om jeg for første gang i livet mitt kunne se klart og tydelig” (92).


35. ”Jeg ser på meg selv i speilet, jeg ser nærmere, jeg flytter blikket fra hodet, over til øynene, til pupillene, jeg ser på den stramme munnen min som ligger i en linje, jeg ser på hele ansiktet mitt, jeg ser og ser og ser, og jeg klarer ikke å se meg selv. Jeg er Alice i Eventyrlandet” (117).


36. ”Rett ved siden av kunne jeg se Gardermoen med de lange flystripene” (18). Cf. also p. 48.


37. ”de enslige asylsøkerne i andre etasje med vinduet mot hele mediesirkuset” (74).


38. ”Jeg ser ut av vinduet. Jeg ser og ser og jeg vil ikke se. Jeg snur meg bort. Jeg ser igjen. Men jeg ser det ikke. Trandum. Det skjer hver gang jeg flyr” (106).


39. “forskjellige meninger om denne jobben” (40).


40. “Du forstår altså at vi ikke har noe som helst med dette å gjøre. Vi er her bare for å gjøre jobben vår” (88).


41. The Norwegian newspaper VG recently reported that twelve people have been given stay permits in Norway as a result of the “Lex Amelie” guideline adjustment, featuring a positive statement by Amelie (Aspunvik et al. 2017, Amelie and Mortensen 2017).

Twitter Facebook