In This Review

Challenging Boundaries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities
Challenging Boundaries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities
Edited by Michael J. Shapiro and Hayward R. Alker
University of Minnesota Press, 1996, 493 pp

This postmodernist collection of essays "constitute[s] a literary intervention in the process by which all those discourses and systems of intelligibility that fail to contest dominant territorialities have daily helped to reproduce the international imaginary." The authors begin by challenging the traditional view that the end of scholarship should be to seek the truth, based either on empirical evidence or on careful interpretation; rather, its purpose should be to challenge existing "hegemonies" -- in this case, states, legal systems, or other conventional forms of order -- as systems of domination. The individual essays then go on to deconstruct orthodoxies about boundaries, territorial and moral -- for example, they argue that Hitler was not beyond the bounds of the Western tradition but rather was representative of its racism. The book contains a number of useful critiques of positivistic social science, such as Jim George's discussion of realist theory. Having abandoned the standards of reason and truth, however, it becomes difficult for the authors to defend their own political preferences -- an agenda emphasizing non-Western cultures, identity politics, feminism, and the like -- in universalistic terms.