This past fall in the Sociology 335 seminar “Nowheres” students studied the question “What does it mean to be a state?” Using Joshua Keating’s book Invisible Countries as a starting point, students discussed definitions of statehood, nationhood, and citizenship.
During two library instruction sessions, students looked at the question of how geographical/social entities are organized in library classification systems (e.g. Library of Congress classification) and discussed how to research geographical or social entities that are not recognized. More broadly, students considered the complexities of organizing/classifying information (who decides? why?) especially for information about things (e.g.countries/states) that do not exist.
Each student researched a “nowhere” of their choosing, and as a final project created three postcards about this nowhere. The exhibit Postcards from Nowheres is currently in display in Sawyer Library. It includes 42 postcards about 14 different nowheres. The postcards investigate places that make us question prevailing definitions of statehood, nationhood, and citizenship.
You can view all 42 postcards as a complete collection in the Forum of Sawyer Library (Level 1). Reproductions of the postcards are also on view in the stacks, placed in the location where most logically books about the nowhere are (or would be) located. Most postcards are in the Library of Congress D classification (World History), but there is also one in the BP and one in the GV. Nowheres researched include: Somaliland, Narco States, American University of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nagorno-Karabath, Roma, International Olympic Committee, Chagos Archipelago, Alsace-Lorraine, Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, South Tyrol, Houselessness, Jonestown (intentional community).