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The main Tamar crossing at Saltash, engraved from a painting by J. M. W. Turner around 1830.

A Fluid Border: The River Tamar and Constructed Difference in Travel Writing of Cornwall

The Tamar is a relatively modest river. With a length of just 61 miles, and an average discharge at the upper tidal limit of just 807 cubic feet per second, it is dwarfed by other British rivers such as the Severn and the Thames. But despite its small scale, the Tamar has a heightened cultural significance: for more than a thousand years it has served as the border between the bulk of England to the east and Cornwall—a region with some distinct quasi-national characteristics—to the west. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century travel writers’ accounts of crossing this border have tended to construct the Tamar as a site of absolute transition from familiarity to otherness—a construction which has at times intersected with (and arguably informed) the emergence of modern identities of difference from within Cornwall.

Sunset at Governor’s Landing overlooking Amistad Reservoir. Image by Seth Dodd/NPS.

Not a Border, But a Path: Swimming Across the Rio Grande

On a cool November day, I floated in the middle of Amistad Reservoir, a lake formed by a dam on the Rio Grande. I was swimming from the United States to Mexico and back, a ten-mile round trip. From the middle, I could see two of the widely spaced buoys that mark the path of the river under the reservoir, one on either side of me; up on the dam, I could see two flags waving in the wind, one for each country. But in the water itself, there was no way to tell if I was in the United States or Mexico, no line to mark the boundary between the two nations. My body floated in both countries and in neither. There was no border; there were only the water and the sky.

This sunset view of the Sonoran Desert shows the distinctive form of saguaro cacti. Image courtesy of Isaac Esposto.

A Small but Ultimate Presence

This year the heat of the desert grew, and the absence of water only became more stark against that rapidly rising contrast. Tucson, my home, set a new record of 11 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 111 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of July, 2023. In other areas of the state where I travel, such as the community of Ajo, we have experienced even hotter temperatures with multiple days’ highs hitting 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the saguaro/Ha:sañ, forever existing in this place, began to curl in on themselves in a concave dehydrated bow.[1] In Southern Arizona, where we write of the dry river beds and the wall corralling (some in, some out), it might appear paradoxical to highlight water—this small but ultimate presence—as the center of things.

On November 29, 2016, fast food workers around the USA went on strike for a $15/hour wage. About 300 protesters gathered at Coffman Memorial Union and called on the Minneapolis City Council and the University of Minnesota to pass a $15/hour minimum wage for all Minneapolis workers. Image courtesy of Fibonacci Blue via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

The College Union: Where Tradition Meets Decolonization on Campus

Higher education has undergone many changes since the first colleges in the old world came to be. Institutions of higher learning respond to societal pressures and needs, which means that education is ever evolving and dependent on the social context in which institutions find themselves. However, there is no denying that the first institutions of higher learning were not welcoming places for people not of the elite classes. These institutions were, and are, places where the education of future leaders has been the premier goal (Cohen and Kisker 2010). To achieve this goal, institutions of higher learning have employed a mixture of curricular, extra-curricular, and co-curricular tools…