Interview with Debbie Lisle: Polysemic Images, Bordering Imaginaries

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In our second interview, Professor Debbie Lisle (Queen’s University Belfast) talks with Tahseen Kazi about creative attunement to the messiness of international studies, and the richness of non-catharsis and failure for more enlivening, non-binary approaches to the international.

The conversation touches on Debbie’s recent book, Holidays in the danger zone: Entanglements of war and tourism, in which she dislodges the dominant tourism and peace model with its diametric opposition of frivolous tourism and serious war. Here, augmenting representational registers of deconstructing texts, Debbie inquires into visual technologies in non-representational registers, including surveillance technologies. In other words, she links more familiar disciplinary skills of critically reading texts to read the asymmetries of watching and being watched present in films and images. Picture photographs of uniformed British First World War officers standing stage front with a background of palm trees. Even so, Debbie’s interest is in going beyond noting asymmetries to maintain the image’s polysemy and creative possibility.

Our conversation also touches on how to further understanding of the border as an elongated space, a space that includes moments long before passage through occurs, such as when border security devices are designed and built. Her recent article, “Laboratizing the border” (co-authored with Mike Bourne and Heather Johnson), explores the bordering imaginaries that are live and operative in the very making bordering devices.

About the PPWG Interview Series

This is the second of what we intend to become a series of interviews relevant to the PPWG membership. We don’t yet know how our third interview will go and are hoping for your ideas and participation. From the start, we’ve wanted these interviews to be a collective effort open to the PPWG membership at large. If you have an idea for a future interview, talk to us. If you are a BISA member and interested in conducting an interview, send us a short (1-page) prospectus. We might be able to provide very modest funding for your efforts. If you live in the southern UK, we could connect you with a filmmaker and cover those fees. Connect with us at