Merrill Hopper

Thesis title:

The Matter of Difference: Exploring the affective embodiment of differential ontology in walls


This project exploits the contradiction of walls. They epitomise fixed physicality yet maintain fluidity in their meaning. A wall might be solid to one individual whilst providing a gate for another. This dualism provides the basis for investigating a spatialised ontology of difference based on the understanding that material objects are the manifestation of ontology. What that object is and the material form it assumes has its own social life (Lievrouw, 2013) impressing on people around it. Those who build it, those who pass it, those who use it, those who refuse it. The resulting multiplicity of meaning that is inscribed upon an object reveals the ontological impact it is having in a productive and performative sense.

I specifically understand ontology to be derived from difference, formulating a basis for borders to occur naturally (van Houtum, 2005). A wall is the ultimate material manifestation of an ontology of difference, performing division overtly. Considering the cases of Detroit, Belfast and Berlin, I argue that walls are the affective embodiment of a spatialised ontology of difference. These three sites offer an alternative to the assumed territorial border walls. Instead, these walls delimit boundaries of race, religion and ideological difference. Appreciating the multiplicity of walls and challenging their static structure contributes to greater debates on what it means to do b\ordering.

First supervisor:

Dr Andrew Brooks


Pathway 11: Global Order, Violence, & Security Practice