Research seminar in Cultural Anthropology med Mahmoud Keshavarz:Fictional Materialities of the Border

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Zoom - to be announced later
  • Lecturer: Mahmoud Keshavarz, University of Gothenburg
  • Organiser: Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi
  • Contact person: Mats Utas
  • Seminarium

The politics of design is in focus of this seminar.

The visual, technological, temporal, and spatial apparatus of the border with all materialisations involved produces and maintains one hegemonic fiction: the given relation between the nation, the body, and its right to mobility.

The border is fictional yet a real and violent killing machine. It is material yet imagined and desired through specific political logics and imaginaries. It exists as real in a world produced and imagined by fictions about the danger of the racially other who no longer waits to be given the right to mobility but move to claim it. 

This long visual essay in the form of a book centres around evidences from a court case on human smuggling in Sweden. It further weaves these evidences together with the accounts given by the smuggler as well as a set of commercial and promotional visual materials from the transnational border security companies, international organizations as well as national security services to articulate borders as a set of fictional materialities. A simple stamp on a passport page, a thread used to bind pages of a passport; the words exchanged between a border guard and a border crosser, a particular choice of word; a specific facial gesture or a suspicious body posture all may or may not form an authentic relation that is fictional from the beginning: the given relation between the nation, the body and its right to mobility.


Mahmoud Keshavarz is a Senior Lecturer in Design Studies at HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design, University of Gothenburg and a Research Associate at the Engaging Vulnerability program, Uppsala University where he holds a Docent in Cultural Anthropology. His research focuses widely on the politics of design and the design of politics with a particular focus on the violent yet imaginative capacities of materialities of borders and (im)mobility. He is author of The Design Politics of the Passport: Materiality, Immobility and Dissent (Bloomsbury 2019), Co-editor-in-chief of the journal Design and Culture and founding member of Decolonizing Design.