The Confluencenter and Being 'Confluential'

Nov. 4, 2014

Since arriving as visiting scholar at the Confluencenter, casual conversations have more than once raised the idea of a yet-undeveloped concept: confluential.

The term was first coined by Raul Aguirre, a friend of the center and longtime community activist and owner of REA Media, while helping launch CCI's inaugural bilingual venue at the Tucson Festival of Books. Even the idea of a trending Twitter tag #confluential was raised. Javier Duran, the center's director, fully agrees that "being confluential" is at the heart of the center's mission.

But what does it mean to be confluential? Can we turn confluence into an adjective? In other words, in the same manner that influential might be "to possess or exert influence," can we possess or exert confluence?

The word confluence comes from the Latin "confluere," or to flow together. Often used in reference to rivers, as in the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, confluence also can simply refer to "an act or process of merging." Merging, or confluence, is something that is certainly needed in the borderspace, as are those individuals, collectives or synergies who might possess or exert such forces — and be confluential. In fact, it goes even deeper, as much of the discourse is so beholden to particular understandings of what or whom is peripheral and precarious and what is central, secure (or to be secured) and at the core.

I’ve already had a chance to attend a couple of events at the UA. One was organized by the School of Art (its VASE Lecture), a provocative and disruptive presentation by Ricardo Dominguez on "Border Art Disturbances: Electronic Civil Disobedience and the Transborder Immigrant Tool." The other was the opening event for the amazing new exhibit and digital archive at the UA: The Documented Border.

Both of these were demonstrations of confluence and being confluential. The Confluencenter has taken on the mantle of being confluential by facilitating, supporting and fostering such projects and presentations. As such, I'm particularly delighted and thankful to be part of the center. However, the projects and presentations, and often those in attendance, are confluential. The diversity of academic disciplines, mediums, identities and ideas in Dominguez's work and The Documented Border testifies to what it means to be confluential.

Finally, in a space such as the borderlands, we should be anything but surprised to find ourselves beginning our reflections (or perhaps returning or revisiting them) with discourse. The notion of what it means to be confluential can be a powerful access point into a field saturated with devastating discourses.

 I look forward to periodically returning to the concept of what it means to be confluential during the course of my months here at the Confluencenter. I’m also excited to continue to make connections and be amazed by the breadth of depth of inquiry and engagement, and to contribute and be a part in whatever small way that I can.

Benjamin J. Muller is the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's inaugural visiting scholar. Muller was invited because of his distinguished multidisciplinary research on the intersection of borders, borderlands, security and identity, and biometric technology. Given the close proximity of the U.S.-Mexico border, these issues are relevant to the UA and the greater campus.