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New Approach in Border Studies: The Need for Re-Thinking the European-African Borderland Through the Case of the EU-SADC Relationship and the Caprivi Strip

Chiara Brambilla


This paper proposes re-thinking the relationship between EU(rope) and Africa as an expression of the complex dynamics produced through the construction of what we define as the European-African borderland. We focus attention on the plural character of such a borderland, by assuming it not only as geographic territorial but also political, symbolic, cultural-anthropological, and epistemological. By taking this view, the paper attempts to contemplate the potential for a new epistemological perspective, speaking from the space of interaction along and across the shifting European-African borderland, assumed as a complex relational space. Far from being-as it is commonly represented-a territorial line separating two differences, the borderland becomes a "plurivocal" construction and its complexity can only be grasped through a new "pluri-versal" looking glass. This last observation points to the urgency to re-think the borderland as a space of interaction where the European-African relationship is articulated at a plurality of 'levels' (political, economical, cultural, etc). More precisely, our analysis deals with two issues that emerge as crucial in a number of narratives through which a Europe-Africa space of relation is defined: security and regionalization policies. The geopolitical centrality of these issues derives from their relations, as highlighted by a critical analysis of the so-called 'EU-Africa Dialogue,' launched through the Cairo-process in 2000. However, although security and regionalization are proposed in institutional narratives as cross-border strategies to construct a Europe-Africa dialogue, what seems to be missing from these initiatives is a clear selfcriticism of the EU's normative logic and model. We seek to develop this point by analyzing the EU-SADC (Southern African Development Community) relational geographies through reference to a territory of the Southern African region-the Caprivi Strip-a part of Namibia, but at the centre of old and new regional projects.

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