Nancy A. Naples
2008 SSSP President

58th Annual Meeting
July 31-August 2, 2008

The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers
64 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 


Crossing Borders: Activist Scholarship, Globalization, and Social Justice

Borders are among the most ubiquitous features of social life. They help to define who we are, shape our sense of the world, and contour our surroundings. Borders and boundary maintenance can serve both negative and positive goals, for example serving as both sites for the reproduction of, and resistance to, inequalities. On the one hand, creating and maintaining borders between nations, communities, and groups form the basis for some of the most violent conflicts historically and presently. Boundary-drawing processes are also at work in the construction of social problems, as distinctions are made between deviancy and normalcy, illegitimate and legitimate acts. Borders between academic disciplines are also policed and hotly contested. On the other hand,demands for the protection of the physical integrity of self, community, or nation include the goal of ensuring personal, social, and cultural freedoms. These appeals for the respect for borders include calls for the right to self-governance by native peoples, and the right to bodily integrity by feminist, transgender, intersexed, anti-violence, and anti-sexist activists.

The theme, Crossing Borders, is designed to focus our attention on the many ways that borders are constructed, analyzed, and contested. How do borders shape our vision of social problems in an increasingly global context? How porous are geographic, political, social, and academic borders? Under what conditions and in what context should borders be protected, contested, or redrawn?

While capital flows freely across national borders, people are subject to systematic and oppressive social control that limits or channels their movement. Militarism, violence, and nationalism, along with the less tangible politics of fear, function to enforce borders and raise further questions: what types of surveillance strategies are in place to uphold borders of different types, who gets to define borders, who controls these borders, who can cross, and under what circumstances.

Cultural communities and ethnic groups who have become scattered around the globe as a consequence of war, environmental devastation, poverty, and political oppression continue to sustain their identities albeit ones that are reconstructed through interaction and shared experience over time. Diasporic communities also maintain and recreate identity through virtual connections sustained via the Internet and electronic media. How have new technologies influenced the construction as well as the dissolution of borders? How can activist scholars utilize these new technologies to generate and enhance collaborative research projects?

Activists are tackling these broad-based questions in a variety of venues ranging from local anti-racism working groups to the World Social Forum. At the SSSP 2008 annual meeting, we will explore how activist scholars can contribute to these efforts as well as explore the limitations of trans-border activism and whether, and in what ways, intersectional social justice movements and interdisciplinary scholarship can overcome these limitations. How do boundary-maintaining strategies within and external to academia and transnational politics affect our world-view and our ability to develop creative approaches to analyze and contest inequality, oppression, and violence?

Many contemporary social justice movements including the LGBTQI and the disability rights movements foreground the fluidity of borders and identities.  Transgender activists are contesting the presumed fixity of sexual and gender identities. Disabilities activists organizing under the frame “Nothing about us without us,” are redefining notions of disability and refocusing attention on the disabling environment that inhibits mobility as well as political participation. In this way, they render problematic borders between ability and disability. Multi-racial and multi-ethnic movements such as the hapa movement are simultaneously challenging fixed racial ethnic identities while creating new porous and self-defined identities. The Crossing Borders theme encourages examination of how dimensions of difference such as ability, gender, sexuality, race, class, and nation serve to divide the “deserving” from the “non-deserving” and the privileged from all others. 

Boston is an ideal city for this focus in that it is the site of one of our treasured tales of colonial challenge to British rule, the Boston Tea Party. Boston is also home to numerous community groups and social justice organizations, such as the Boston Global Action Network, that organizes against neo-liberalism and militarism, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a multi-racial nonprofit organization dedicated to community revitalization. And, Boston is the capital of the only state in the U.S. where same-sex couples can legally marry. 

We invite SSSP members to think creatively about our intellectual borders and organize workshops and collaborative sessions that blur the boundaries between activist and scholar, presenter and audience, and that reach across social problem divisions.


Nancy A. Naples, SSSP President, University of Connecticut

2008 Program Committee

Hector Delgado, Co-Chair
University of LaVerne

Adia Harvey Wingfield
Georgia State University

Wendy Simonds, Co- Chair
Georgia State University

Charlotte Ryan
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Alison Griffith
York University

Clare Weber
California State University, Dominguez Hills