Annotation: Taylor, Diana. 1998. Border Watching.

Taylor, Diana. 1998. Border Watching. In, The Ends of Performance. Peggy Phelan and Jill Lane (eds). Pp. 178-185. New York and London: New York University Press.

This article is about the politics of looking, and while we constantly look across borders (national, ethnic, cultural), “the issue is not if, but how we look” (180). At a forum in Buenos Aires in 1990, Taylor’s critique of a work by Argentinean director Laura Yusem as reproducing, rather than dismantling, military authoritarianism, was not well received. Someone in the audience called her a fascist, while the director dismissed her as a Yanqui feminist. As a foreigner, her presence marked and highlighted the boundaries between “them” and the “not-one-of-them” (179). In this self-reflexive piece, Taylor writes about what she might have responded had she not felt powerless at the forum. Her rather complex positionality as a Canadian/Mexican woman, was reduced to being perceived as an “American.” She could have reminded the audience that “dialogues and alliances are constantly being established between people with significant ‘differences’ to achieve similar ends” (179). National identity is not the only basis for identification and mutual recognition. Her role is not to take on the observed’s fear or guilt , but to reflect on her role as a spectator in enabling or disrupting the scenario (180). On the issue of the abductions and disappearances of Argentineans during the dictatorship, women can align across national boundaries based on issues of international human rights. There is also another kind of looking at things and events that is radically different from the Western scientific and rational “observer,” which she calls “witnessing.” In witnessing, the border between the “see-er” and the “seen” suddenly moves. The viewing subject comes to inhabit the expanded border zone of the ‘inner’ (183). In this Lacanian “gaze”, all involved are “looking at each other looking” (183). The subject/object, see-er/seen distinction works within an “economy of looks” — with both positions and scenarios in constant flux.


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