Answers from the Border Country

From Planet 253

by Black Hawk Hancock

US scholar Black Hawk Hancock takes a road-trip around Wales’s border country to pay homage to Raymond Williams, and to bring home to the ‘rust-belt’ new insights into ‘structures of feeling’ and ways of resisting economic distress within the post-industrial world.

I was recently in Wales to give a talk at Cardiff University. I had come to discuss my current research on climate change, undocumented labour migration and the connection between the two. On a more personal level, I had come in search of Raymond Williams. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was a student of John Fiske, a cultural theorist and media scholar who trained me in the tradition of British Cultural Studies. Fiske, in turn, was Raymond Williams’ student at Cambridge. The trip to Wales, then, provided an opportunity to explore questions about my intellectual ancestry. This meant heading into Williams’ Border Country (the title of perhaps his most famous novel) a land that was neither Wales nor England, but somewhere in-between.1 There are no maps of the Border Country, there is only territory. Williams’ Border Country is not to be defined by the novel’s literary-allegorical qualities that animate the imagination, but by its lush deciduous winding roads and its sweeping vistas that do not yield to Google maps, nor does its bilingual signage allow for easy translation into American English.

Sign in to read more
Subscribe here

About the author

Black Hawk Hancock is Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Sociology Department at DePaul University. His works includes American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination published by The University of Chicago Press.