Borders on the mind: re-framing border thinking

Article English OPEN
Agnew, John (2008)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: Ethics & Global Politics (issn: 1654-6369, eissn: 1654-4951)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/egp.v1i4.1892
  • Subject: Borders; Frontiers; Decent life; Dwelling; Territory; Heterotopia; Globalization

From one viewpoint, interstate borders are simple ‘artefacts on the ground’. Borders exist for a variety of practical reasons and can be classified according to the purposes they serve and how they serve them. They enable a whole host of important political, social, and economic activities. From a very different perspective, borders are artefacts of dominant discursive processes that have led to the fencing off of chunks of territory and people from one another. Such processes can change and as they do, borders live on as residual phenomena that may still capture our imagination but no longer serve any essential purpose. Yet, what if, although still necessary for all sorts of reasons, borders are also inherently problematic? We need to change the way in which we think about borders to openly acknowledge their equivocal character. In other words, we need to see a border not as that which is either fixed or that as such must be overcome, but as an evolving construction that has both practical merits and demerits that must be constantly reweighed. Thinking about borders should be opened up to consider territorial spaces as ‘dwelling’ rather than national spaces and to see political responsibility for pursuit of a ‘decent life’ as extending beyond the borders of any particular state. Borders matter, then, both because they have real effects and because they trap thinking about and acting in the world in territorial terms. Keywords: borders, frontiers, decent life, dwelling, territory, heterotopia, globalization(Published online: 7 November 2008)Citation: Ethics & Global Politics. Vol. 1, No. 4, 2008, pp. 175-191. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v1i4.1892
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