It is within the perception, the reality and the problematic of international air travel that this thesis is situated. It argues that a space has been created for international air travel, which is conceptually and physically demarcated from normative social space, the Transit Zone. The thesis examines four sites constituting the Transit Zone using both political and social theory and the analysis of performance and visual artworks that explore, explain or contest aspects of the sites. The first site is concerned with the construction of nation-state territory, population and legal movement. Its physical expression can be found at the border between the Transit Zone and the nation-state. However, its conceptual reach is much more extensive, appearing in immigration policy, national law, international covenants, data-sharing practices and the creation of a space external to, yet within, the nation-state system. This site creates the Transit Zone’s paradoxical position of being excluded from nation-state territory while simultaneously defining it. The second site is premised on the (in)security of civil aviation and explores the striving towards absolute security, and the unachievability of that goal. This is a reflection of the prevalence of (in)security discourses in contemporary society. The third site is created by corporate interest within the airport terminal and the aeroplane. It is the site of logistics and sales, of the passenger functioning both as an object or unit of movement and as a desiring purchasing subject. The fourth site is constructed through the imagination – it is made up of the ideas, cultural dreams and responses that have accreted around the site of the Transit Zone. These intimate and personal responses transform the Transit Zone from a site of function, profit and government control to a vehicle for the construction and realisation of fears, fantasies and rites of passage.
This thesis demonstrates that many contemporary issues infuse and surround the Transit Zone. Immigration, national defence, international politics, logistics, social interaction and cultural fantasy all collide there. It explores the complexity of the Transit Zone’s paradoxical collection of sites and systems, which can not be reduced to one single reading. The Transit Zone has evolved, and continues to do so, in response to government and international demands, legal problems, technological advancements, logistical and commercial needs, and social changes. In doing so, its evolution redefines and articulates contemporary concerns. Additionally the thesis reveals an extensive artistic engagement with the Transit Zone and the contemporary concerns it articulates. Art is used as a designated imaginative space that challenges the established reality and the art works discussed change our understanding of the Transit Zone.