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.
- Islamic State
- South China Sea
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Despite operating at multiple scales and with varied levels of formal delineation, these different manifestations of borders are all intrinsic to the human propensity ‘to draw lines that divide the world into specific places, territories, and categories.’ As such, borders fulfill a variety of functions as ‘dividers of space, symbolic markers of control, and social processes of daily life’ (Diener and Hagen 2012: 1–2).
Other American vessels and aircraft have subsequently made similar forays across these disputed areas, indicating they are likely to be recurring events.
One might look to state-sponsored irrigation projects in desert or grassland regions for agriculture and the settlement of people in frontier areas as similar efforts to demonstrate effective use of land and symbolize its incorporation into national territory (Schechla 1993).
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Diener, A.C., Hagen, J. (2017). Changing Modalities of Power in the Twenty-First Century. In: Günay, C., Witjes, N. (eds) Border Politics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46855-6_2
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