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‘Equally like a beginning and an end’: edge-lands and threshold conditions

Butt, A. ORCID: (2024) ‘Equally like a beginning and an end’: edge-lands and threshold conditions. field:, 9 (1). 125. ISSN 1755-0068

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To link to this item DOI: 10.62471/field.125


This paper was developed, while sitting on the doorstep of my flat. The surfaces of this threshold so often stepped over with my thoughts already elsewhere, now imprint themselves on the soft skin of my hands and thighs as I curl up in the open doorway. This is an attempt to dwell on the threshold, in the spaces that exist in the line-thickness of a boundary, to linger within the space between. This paper will consider the critical potential of the threshold in sf, focusing on Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Ada Palmer’s Too Like The Lightning, and Andrea Hairston’s Mindscape. Here, the estranging practices of science fiction offer critical distance to consider mundane thresholds as part of the technologies of the boundary, the “borders, laws, doors, … and scalpels” described by Sophie Lewis. These fictions are considered alongside and through works of art and spatial theory which address the spatial and social construction of thresholds and borders. In doing so, they offer reflection on architectural practice and representation, on the boundaries drawn around the imagination of worlds made otherwise. While in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West doorways collapse timber thickness of the domestic doorway into the thickness of a shadow, in these fictions this threshold can also be drawn out, blurred and mutable, until the space between becomes an inhabited depth. From the trench surrounding the commune in Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, to the strips of land between settlement and barrier in Andrea Hairston’s Wastelands, these spatial edge-lands act as what Jane Rendell refers to as transitional spaces between forms of social organization. These are the gaps and the spaces of overlap; as boundary voids they create social and emotional distance and can act to reinforce patterns of othering and segregation, but at the same time they act as spaces apart from the worlds they border, ripe with the utopian potential of any such cracks in the world machine.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Architecture
ID Code:114056
Publisher:The University of Sheffield School of Architecture


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