How are national borders imagined?
The word borders - immediately conjures up images of physical spaces, walls, barren land, and lines on maps. In ‘Security, Territory, Population’ (1, 1978) Foucault describes some of the aspects of borders beyond their physical construction, and explores some of their meanings and purposes.
“At first sight and somewhat schematically, we could say that sovereignty is exercised within the borders of a territory, discipline is exercised on the bodies of individuals, and security is exercised over a whole population. Territorial borders, individual bodies, and a whole population…”
Foucault uses these categories, sovereignty, security, discipline, and biopolitics, to address a wider range of actors and structures than simply fences and lines on a map. Exploring the sovereign exclusion of illegal life, the disciplinary detention of surveilled life, and the biopolitical implications in migration and borders has equal political relevance today, despite the new and ever shifting technologies of the border and state.
In ‘The Governance of Visibility’ by Robert Latham, these concepts are brought into a more modern context, noting the evolving study and discussion of borders.
“Although there are numerous topics of study bearing on the border, especially the one between the United States and Mexico—including gender, labor, and transnationalism—two themes have been especially important across a range of work. One theme is restriction, exclusion, control, fear, surveillance, and security, where in spatial term metaphors such as walls, zones, and regions predominate." The other is subjectivity, resistance, place making, cultural hybridization, and narrativity with the metaphor of borderlands as central, emphasizing the continuity across national territories; and the possibilities of being at home is viable, despite the pressure of state, capital, and predominant nationalisms. It is not hard to find both elements figuring within the same works and analyses. Viewing the borderlands as containing both dimensions is consistent with the more general spatial understanding of the borderlands as composed of a multiplicity of levels, framings, social spheres, logics of power, subject hoods, identities, places, many of which are visible and invisible according to a variety of optics from states to local communities.”
Scholars who concur that the border concept embodies multiple dimensions, or aspects, have offered various schemes of perception and classification of these aspects. Some stress the dual character of borders. Nicol and Minghi (2005, 681 ), for example, distinguished between "two very different ways of understanding borders. The first is the understanding of functional and symbolic entities which 'do work' in material and imaginative ways. The second is to see borders as more subtle fields which are perceptual, structural and discursive." Others perceive more than two dimensions of the border. Malcolm Anderson (1996, 2-3) offered "four dimensions" of frontiers.1 First, they are geopolitical instruments of the state; second, their permeability cannot be entirely controlled; third, frontiers are markers of identity; and fourth, "frontier" is a discursive term that is geographically and historically contingent.
At a base and nationalistic level, borders and particularly a secure border, conjure up themes of safety. These themes, while imaginary, have real political implications and influence. In ‘Constructing the Virtual Wall’ Josiah McC Heyman points out the use in the border as a symbol by politicians;
The virtual wall will reduce the ambiance of illegality and disorder, and renew the sense of protection and control. This will reassure a nation that no longer has unquestioned primacy in international relations, is stuck in intractable wars, has enemies that are difficult to discern, receives confusing global headlines from the mass media, and has an economy deeply penetrated by global forces, including both U.S. corporations moving outwards and foreign corporations competitively pushing in. The United States also faces disorderly internal trends, including widening income inequalities and rapid inflation of health-care costs, for which a perfect wall against lawbreaking outsiders offers a satisfying magic solution. We would all be safe and secure.
Migrants are engaged in a global capitalism that at one level obliterates the border distinction but that, at another level, is a mechanism of border control through the hegemonic state apparatus. Migrants,as labor, are enticed by and allowed into the US labor markets, yet are regulated and controlled as commodities (29) without a legitimate bilateral accommodation in the market (120). The work of both Chavez (46, 50) on undocumented migrants and Heyman (110,116) supports this analysis. Migration and process must be examined in conjunction with the larger structure controlling the ebb and flow of commodity (labor) distribution between Mexico and the United States.
“These people, often labeled transnationals, are compelled or choose to cross a wide range of geopolitical and metaphorical borders. Refugees, migrants, workers, criminals, soldiers, merchants and nomads cross and create many boundaries in their movements through their and other people's spaces and places. Even as they problematise the relationship, however, anthropologists must not forget that many of these people themselves still believe in the essential correspondence between territory, nation, state and identity, a correspondence in which each element is assumed to be an integral part of naturally occurring and bounded units. And even if some transnationals have lost this belief, they must nevertheless deal with those who still hold it. The state, which epitomizes the belief in the homology between culture, identity, territory and nation, is a structure of power. Boundary making and breaking within and between states is a political act which can be seen to support or oppose that structure. Borders may serve as useful metaphors for understanding the rootlessness of many populations today, but this should not obscure the fact that everyone lives within or between the boundaries of nation-states, and these boundaries are always more than metaphorical.”
The threshold metaphor implies bringing someone to the edge of something new, a doorway into something better, a recognition of future changes and a vision of a new direction. We might call it a crossroads, a junction of ways, a border crossing. People, children and adults, find it difficult to cross borders and thresholds. They have a comfort zone and mentally resist crossing it. This conservatism holds back new ideas as people hang on to old explanations in case their certainties are shattered. The processes of challenging oneself to cross boundaries has to be guided and taught; and once a person has succeeded, no other boundaries worry them unduly. Boundary crossing is therefore an empowerment activity, and many children (and not a few adults) need it desperately
More than a decade ago, David Newman and Anssi Paasi (1998, 187) noted that "state boundaries are equally social, political and discursive constructs.. . [and] have deep symbolic, cultural, historical and religious, often contested meanings for social communities." They called on geographers to recognize the "diverse types" of borders, ranging "from physical and territorial to the social, personal and symbolic" (200). A year later, Paasi (1999, 670) wrote that "boundaries manifest themselves in numerous social (economic, cultural, administrative, and political) practices and discourses." Around the same time, Balibar (1999) remarked that Europe is an assemblage of sovereign nation states bound up with "as much political as cultural and 'spiritual'" questions of the border. In the same vein, James Anderson (1996) argued that national borders have multiple purposes and serve as delineations of physically controlled territory, signifiers of cultural identity, markers of political unity, and other uses. According to this literature, borders are experienced in various ways and must be theorized as multifaceted and polysemic entities
Security, Territory, Population
Borders Frontiers of Identity, Nation and State Hastings Donnan and Thomas M. Wilson
ISBN 1 85973 246 1
Thresholds, liminality and fruitful chaos: revolutionary change in education? , Stephen Bigger
Toward a Critical Geography of the Border: Engaging the Dialectic of Practice and Meaning, Herald Bauder
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Sept 2011, Vol. 101, No.5 pp.1126-1139
Constructing a Virtual Wall: Race and Citizenship in U.S.-Mexico Border Policing, Josiah McC. Heyman, Journal of the Southwest
Alvarez Jr, Robert R. .. “THE MEXICAN-US BORDER: The Making of an Anthropology of Borderlands.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 24, no. 1, Oct. 1995, pp. 447–470. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1146/annurev.an.24.100195.002311.
Brdrxing as act of resistance -> https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1xxrtf.8