Posts Tagged With: violence

The Historical Reality of Violence in Westworld’s Frontier Fantasy

Our obsession with HBO’s Westworld, and how we can interpret it through a Borderlands history perspective, continues. Major spoilers ahead for seasons 1 & 2 of the series.

There are two overarching themes at play in the second season of Westworld. The first, and most prevalent, has to do with the consequences of violence. What Ford reminded his wealthy patrons at the gala in Escalante, when Dolores –as Wyatt– assassinated him, was that violence and borderlands have always been intertwined. Before, when the guests could act out their bloody fantasies without fear of injury to themselves, it presented only a partially-realized view of lived reality and history. In season two, Westworld introduced viewers to two additional parks, one based on Tokugawa Japan and another on India during the British Raj, both societies predicated on a finely-tuned balance of order and violence. Following the events in Escalante, however, removing the limits on the consequences of violence, not only democratized experience in the parks, but also brought them into historical continuity with the regions in which they are based. In short, it injected a bloody ambiguity into the narratives of the visitors who came to Delos’s fantasylands.

The second overarching theme: how identity is molded and who carries out the molding. Viewers see it with the obsession for fidelity that William, Dolores, Bernard, Arnold, and Ford share. The point is not simply to create a fully realized world, but one that also conforms to their idiosyncratic priorities. They desire to produce individuals who will serve their needs, whatever the reason. Language games and bodily comportment are critical to this process of molding another’s identity, and failure to achieve fidelity results in swift and violent consequences. For students of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and the frontier, numerous parallels with the state’s own obsession with social hierarchy, conformity, bodily comportment and language emerge. The Indian schools, women’s clinics, prison camps, and delousing checkpoints that appeared in the borderlands during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries created their own parameters to determine the state’s measure of fidelity to the American racial ideal. The laboratory where William endlessly torments a mechanical copy of his father-in-law, James Delos, in order to create a version of the man to his pleasing, serves as a macabre allegory to the historical actions of the state.

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B/orders: Berlin, Borders, and the Disparate Value of Life

Recently, 25 years after Gorbachev, Reagan, John Paul II, Harald Jaeger, or, alternatively, David Hasselhoff, brought down the Berlin Wall, Germans flocked to the capital and the East Side Gallery to mark the occasion. Many news outlets and blogs have discussed the festivities, culminating with the symbolic release of glowing balloons shortly after midnight on Monday morning of November 10th, but few have acknowledged the paradoxes and inequalities that persist.  While attending the Berlin Border Seminar, organized by Martin Barthel (Comparative Research Network), I witnessed some of the ways these dissonances seep through narratives of progress, pan-Europeanism, and tourist-friendly order. I also had the pleasure to hear about border-related research happening in Europe, including James W. Scott‘s thoughts on the dynamic, ongoing process of bordering and re-bordering in urban spaces in cities such as Berlin.  (Here are links to the conference schedule: Berlin Border Seminar Booklet 41114  and BBS Errata.)

As I made my way to the Armony hotel on the morning of Saturday, the 8th of November, I walked along the former line of the western wall (it was actually a strip, not a single wall).  While it would have been a lofty task to damage all or most of the thousands of balloons, its clear that a significant number had been destroyed.  Some of the thin, black posts were knocked over or bent, and other balloons were simply popped, leaving their stands holding limp blobs off lifeless latex.  More importantly, some of the remaining balloons had been repurposed to display radical messages. (See photos below.)  One, for instance, had two boxes, beside “Berlin wall” and “European Wall,” with the first selected with an approving “X.”  Tellingly, most of the balloons had been repaired or replaced by the following morning. Continue reading

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“War Along the Border” Panel Recap @Texas Tech

Borderlands History is pleased to host this recap of the War Along the Border panel by panelist and author Miguel Levario. 

The Teaching Diversity Across the Curriculum: Open Teaching Concept initiative at Texas Tech University hosted a panel featuring War Along the Border editor Dr. Arnoldo De León, historian of Mexico, Dr. John Klingemann who contributed a chapter to the volume titled “‘The Population is Overwhelmingly Mexican; Most of it is in Sympathy with the Revolution…’, Mexico’s Revolution of 1910 and the Tejano Community in the Big Bend,” and author of Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy Dr. Miguel A. Levario to discuss the historical context of today’s “hot topic” issues of immigration, border security, and violence through the lens of De León’s award-winning edited volume, War Along the Border: The Mexican Revolution and Tejano Communities. The session was part of a two-week series of continuing dialogue and co-curricular activities on the Texas Tech campus centered on the larger-theme of the presidential and congressional elections. Continue reading

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