Changing Modalities of Power in the Twenty-First Century

  • Alexander C. Diener
  • Joshua Hagen


Once fashionable predictions of an imminent borderless world have been questioned by recent headlines that suggest an international system very much rooted in the ideal of nation-states and their efforts to constitute distinct sovereign territories. State borders remain among the most visible features of geopolitics and useful political modalities for managing trans-border dynamics of environmental change, migration, and trade, among other issues. Rather than eliding their role, the growing interaction and interdependence between different places around the world emphasizes their significance and the way they shape, divide, and unite the world’s societies, economies, and ecosystems. Borders have never constituted absolute demarcations of group identities or unambiguously reflected spatialities of power. Their material and cartographic production nevertheless afforded them an idealized gravitas among many theorists and the general public. This chapter joins a growing literature challenging this idealization by contending that borders are, and have always been, far more than lines on a map or locations of demarcation. Their variability of porousness and the breadth of the borderlands they engender constitute not only central themes of geopolitical research but also active forces affecting people around the world. This chapter examines current international crises to explore specific lines of inquiry, research, and theory within this growing, multidisciplinary field of border studies.


Borders China Iraq Islamic State Refugees Russia South China Sea Syria Terrorism Turkey Ukraine Sovereignty Nationalism 


  1. Adamson, F. B. (2016). Spaces of global security: Beyond methodological nationalism. Journal of Global Security Studies, 1(1), 19–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agnew, J. (2003). Geopolitics: Re-visioning world politics (2nd ed.). Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Agnew, J. (2009). Globalization and sovereignty. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  4. Andreas, P. (2000). Introduction: The wall after the wall. In P. Andreas & T. Snyder (Eds.), The wall around the West: State borders and immigration controls in North America and Europe (pp. 1–11). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  5. Antonsich, M. (2009). On territory, the nation-state, and the crisis of the hyphen. Progress in Human Geography, 33(6), 789–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anzaldua, G. (2012). Borderlands, La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.Google Scholar
  7. Artman, V. (2013). Documenting territory: Passportisation, territory, and exception in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Geopolitics, 18(3), 682–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ashley, R. (1989). Living on the border lines: Man, poststructuralism, and war. In J. Der Derian & M. Shapiro (Eds.), International/intertextual relations (pp. 259–321). Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.Google Scholar
  9. Barnard, A. (2015, December 28). Family’s tragedy goes beyond one boy. The New York Times, p. A1. Retrieved from
  10. Biersack, J., & O’Lear, S. (2014). The geopolitics of Russia’s annexation of Crimea: Narratives, identity, silences, and energy. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 55(3), 247–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Black, I. (2014, June 18). Isis breach of Iraq-Syria border merges two wars into one ‘nightmarish reality’, The Guardian. Retrieved from
  12. Caney, S. (2005). Justice beyond borders: A global political theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Castells, M. (1997). The power of identity. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Clem, R. (2014). Dynamics of the Ukraine state-territory nexus. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 55(3), 219–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Coleman, M. (2007). Immigration politics beyond the Mexico-US Border. Antipode, 39, 54–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deutsch, K. (1966). Nationalism and social communication: An inquiry into the foundations of nationality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Diener, A. (2014). Russian repositioning: Mobilities and the Eurasian regional concept. In S. Walcott & C. Johnson (Eds.), Corridor of interconnections: Eurasia from the South China to the Caspian Sea (pp. 72–109). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Diener, A., & Hagen, J. (2009). Theorizing borders in a borderless world: Globalization, mobility and scale. Geography Compass, 3(3), 1196–1216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diener, A., & Hagen, J. (Eds.). (2010). Borderlines and borderlands: Political oddities at the edge of the nation state. Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, A., & Hagen, J. (2012). Borders: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dodds, K. (1994). Geopolitics and foreign policy: Recent developments in Anglo-American political geography and international relations. Progress in Human Geography, 18(2), 186–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Donnan, H., & Wilson, T. M. (1999). Borders: Frontiers of identity, nation and state. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  23. Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  24. Fukayama, F. (1991). The end of history and the last man. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gavrilis, G. (2010). The dynamics of interstate boundaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Glassner, M., & Fahrer, C. (2004). Political geography (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Hartshorne, R. (1936). Suggestions on the terminology of political boundaries. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 26(1), 56–57.Google Scholar
  28. Hashim, A. S. (2014). The Islamic state: From al-Qaeda affiliate to caliphate. Middle East Policy, 21(4), 69–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Herz, J. (1957). Rise and demise of the territorial state. World Politics, 9, 473–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huang, J., & Billo, A. (Eds.). (2015). Territorial disputes in the South China Sea: Navigating rough waters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  31. International Organization for Migration. (2016). Missing migrants project. Retrieved from
  32. Jones, R. (2012). Border walls: Security and the war on terror in the United States, India, and Israel. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  33. Khouri, R. (2015). ISIS is about the Arab past, not the future. Wilson Center Middle East Program, May, 1–23.Google Scholar
  34. Krause, K., & Williams, M. (Eds.). (1997). Critical security studies: Concepts and cases. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kuper, A. (2004). Democracy beyond borders: Justice and representation in global institutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lister, C. R. (2015). The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic state and the evolution of an insurgency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mann, M. (1984). The autonomous power of the state. European Journal of Sociology, 25, 185–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martinez, O. (1994). The dynamics of border interaction: New approaches to border analysis. In C. Schofield (Ed.), World boundaries 1: Global boundaries (World boundaries series, pp. 1–15). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Megoran, N. (2008). From presidential podiums to pop music: Everyday discourses of geopolitical danger in Uzbekistan. In R. Pain & S. Smith (Eds.), Fear: Critical geopolitics and everyday life (pp. 5–36). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  40. Megoran, N. (2010). The Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan boundary: Stalin’s cartography post Soviet geography. In A. Diener & J. Hagen (Eds.), Borderlines and borderlands: Political oddities at the edge of the nation state (pp. 33–52). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  41. Megoran, N. (2012). Rethinking the study of international boundaries: A biography of the Kyrgyzstan–Uzbekistan boundary. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(2), 464–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Murphy, A. (2012). Territory’s continuing allure. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103, 1212–1226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nakamura, D., & Lamothe, D. (2016, March 1). China testing Obama as it expands its influence in Southeast Asia. Washington Post. Retrieved from
  44. Nevins, J. (2002). Operation gatekeeper: The rise of the “illegal alien” and the making of the U.S.-Mexico boundary. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Newman, D. (2003). On borders and power: A theoretical framework. Journal of Borderland Studies, 18(1), 13–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Obama, B. (2016, February 16). Remarks by President Obama at U.S.-ASEAN Press Conference. Retrieved from
  47. O’Brien, R. (1992). Global financial integration: The end of geography. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.Google Scholar
  48. Ohmae, K. (1990). The borderless world: Power and strategy in the interlinked economy. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
  49. Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation-state. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  50. Ó Tuathail, G. (1996). Critical geopolitics: The politics of writing global space. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Ó Tuathail, G., & Agnew, J. (1992). Geopolitics and discourse: Practical geopolitical reasoning in American Foreign Policy. Political Geography, 11(2), 190–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Paasi, A. (1998). Boundaries as social processes: Territoriality in the world of flows. Geopolitics, 3(1), 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pain, R., & Smith, S. (Eds.). (2008). Fear: Critical geopolitics and everyday life. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  54. Popescu, G. (2012). Bordering and ordering the twenty-first century: Understanding borders. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  55. Ratzel, F. (1969/1896). The laws of the spatial growth of states. In R. Kasperson & J. Minghi (Eds.), The structure of political geography (pp. 17–28). London: University of London Press.Google Scholar
  56. Roszko, E. (2015). Maritime territorialisation as performance of sovereignty and nationhood in the South China Sea. Nations & Nationalism, 21(2), 230–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sack, R. D. (1997). Homogeographicus. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Sahlins, P. (1998). State formation and national identity in the Catalan borderlands during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In T. M. Wilson & H. Donnan (Eds.), Border identities: Nation and state at international frontiers (pp. 31–61). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schechla, J. (1993). Ideological roots of population transfer. Third World Quarterly, 14(2), 239–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Semple, E. (1907a). Geographical boundaries-I. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 39(7), 385–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Semple, E. (1907b). Geographical boundaries-II. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 39(8), 449–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shevchenko, V. (2014, March 11). ‘Little green men’ or ‘Russian invaders’? BBC News. Retrieved from
  63. Sidaway, J. D. (2015). Mapping border studies. Geopolitics, 20(1), 214–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Staeheli, L. (2010). Political geography: Where’s citizenship? Progress in Human Geography, 35(3), 393–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Walt, S. (2015). Why arming Ukraine is a really, really bad idea. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from
  66. Weldes, J., Laffey, M., Gusterson, H., & Duvall, R. (1999). Introduction: Constructing insecurity. In J. Weldes, M. Laffey, H. Gusterson, & R. Duvall (Eds.), Cultures of insecurity: States, communities and the production of danger (Borderlines, Vol. 14, pp. 1–33). London: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  67. Zelin, A. Y. (2015, January 28). The Islamic state’s model. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.College of Arts and SciencesNorthern State UniversityAberdeenUSA

Personalised recommendations