This essay argues for a broader conception of the ‘border’ in a contemporary, postcolonial context. French borders are increasingly diffuse geographically and conceptually. Multidirectional population flows, the effects of European border policies and the ideational borders that delineate between putative insiders and outsiders must all be taken into account. In strictly spatial terms, the contemporary borders of France and Europe are not simply physical lines (however fluid or permeable) where people cross or are compelled to stop, but zones, spaces of contact and back-and-forth, or a ‘borderland’, to use étienne Balibar’s concept. Drawing on historical studies of immigration and current border theory, the essay takes two primary approaches to borders: first as social and political concepts and then as physical spaces or zones. It then concludes examples of cinematic representations of border crossings and border experiences, taken from French, francophone and wider European film industries.
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