What Is a Border?

9781503605398: Paperback
Release Date: 27th February 2018

Dimensions: 127 x 203

Number of Pages: 112

Edition: 1st Edition

Stanford University Press

What Is a Border?

Warning that the era of globalization is witnessing not the disappearance of borders but a return to them, this book analyzes and explains why borders have become a very topical subject in both domestic and international affairs today.
Paperback / £9.99

The fall of the Berlin Wall, symbol of the bipolar order that emerged after World War II, seemed to inaugurate an age of ever fewer borders. The liberalization and integration of markets, the creation of vast free-trade zones, the birth of a new political and monetary union in Europe—all seemed to point in that direction. Only thirty years later, the tendency appears to be quite the opposite. Talk of a wall with Mexico is only one sign among many that boundaries and borders are being revisited, expanding in number, and being reintroduced where they had virtually been abolished. Is this an out-of-step, deceptive last gasp of national sovereignty or the victory of the weight of history over the power of place? The fact that borders have made a comeback, warns Manlio Graziano, in his analysis of the dangerous fault lines that have opened in the contemporary world, does not mean that they will resolve any problems. His geopolitical history and analysis of the phenomenon draws our attention to the ground shifting under our feet in the present and allows us to speculate on what might happen in the future.

Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

This introduction deals with the question of whether and why the borders are topical despite the long wave of globalization and concludes that they are at the same time obsolete and topical—obsolete, because globalization has undermined them and topical because their weakening has led to a reshuffling of territories and identities. It also introduces the relative nature of borders, which are different in time and space, depending on different stages of development of countries.

1A Short History of Borders
chapter abstract

This chapter provides a short history of borders, from prehistoric societies to the present. It challenges some conventional wisdom about the "natural" character of borders, as they were essentially and intrinsically linked to human nature. The chapter describes how territories were delimited at hunter-gatherer times, then when the first empires were born, then in the Middle Ages, and it shows how their modern role was born along with the principle of sovereignty. Part of the chapter is devoted to the birth of the idea of nation and its progressive implementation, to show how nation and borders grew up together. The chapter also deals with cosmopolitan, supranational, and postnational ideas and addresses the return of borders today, explicitly mentioning protectionism, Brexit, and the 2016 American elections.

2The Power of Place
chapter abstract

This chapter deals with the different forms, roles, and ideas of borders in the contemporary world, starting with the uneven development of regions, resulting mass-migration movements, and reactions in the developed world. Then it introduces different forms of borders: the invisible borders within countries and societies; the religious borders, which are among the most stable borders, and therefore provide much relief to those who are constantly yearning for an identity; the electoral borders, that is, the increasing political use of borders for electoral purposes; and finally, the phantom borders, the eight states that are not recognized by the international community.

3Borders in Progress
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the political role of borders in a series of specific cases. It starts with the different borders of Europe, why they are so numerous, and why they have changed so frequently. It then looks at the Middle East and Africa, where artificial borders and states are linked to political instability and war; the case of the incessantly moving borders of Russia, which is constantly in search of territorial protection; China, with a specific analysis of the buffer regions (i.e., nonethnically Chinese regions) as "natural borders," as well as the issue of its maritime borders and the disputed areas in the South China Sea; and the case of the United States, its particularly stable borders as opposed to the expansion of its frontier well beyond the limits of the Western Hemisphere and the unique openness of its borders to immigration over most of its history.

chapter abstract

The conclusion explains why a history of borders is so important in order to underline their relative character and identify the issue of the political comeback of borders and their likely future implication on international relations.

Manlio Graziano teaches geopolitics and geopolitics of religion at the Sorbonne, the Geneva Institute of Geopolitical Studies, and La Sapienza University in Rome. His books include In Rome We Trust (Stanford, 2017).

"This short book impressively synthesizes a vast range of knowledge about borders, both historical and geographical, into a coherent, accessible, and rigorous narrative. Providing a critical perspective on the so-called return of borders in the context of decades of globalizing tendencies, Graziano outlines the paradoxes of this 'return' while showing how and why globalization and the generation of borders are mutually implicated."

Brett Neilson
Western Sydney University

"What is a Border? serves as a useful primer that leaves us with the realization that there is much to learn if we are to create more satisfactory political and social groupings for today's world."

Alexander Sager
H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

"A great deal of discussion is had about borders without there being much understanding of what they are and where they came from. Manlio Graziano makes clear the role of borders as symptoms of growing disorder rather than as causes."

Ronnie D. Lipschutz
University of California, Santa Cruz