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Between the Domestic and the Foreign: Centering the Nation's Edges


Linda S. Bosniak


Rutgers University School of Law, Camden

2007

Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 24, pp. 271-284, 2007
LEGAL BORDERLANDS: LAW AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN BORDERS, Mary L. Dudziak, Leti Volpp, eds. pp. 8-421, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006

Abstract:     
Most American constitutional thought presumes the existence of a firm divide between national-self and outside-other - between the domestic and the foreign - that doesn't hold up. Some issues do fall neatly on one side of the line or the other, but it is also true that the national self and its others converge in a multiplicity of moments and manners and locations. These convergences complicate the presumed divide between the in-here and the out-there. Whether formally or informally, violently or uneventfully, the domestic and the foreign interact; they mutually engage. Those occasions and locations of interaction between the domestic and the foreign are themselves neither entirely domestic nor entirely foreign; they are interstitial spaces. Whether arising at the nation's geographic frontiers or its figurative ones, they require their own attention as an analytical matter.

But a focus on national boundaries makes clear, in addition, that there are really no unalloyed domestic and foreign spaces after all. The nation's inside and its outside are always interpenetrated. The emerging field of border studies anatomizes these domains of interface; and in the process, allows us to see how the domestic and the foreign are constantly making and remaking one another. One implication is that attention to the nation's edges, wherever those are located, is of essential importance even for those whose primary interest remains inward-looking, domestic constitutional law. For it turns out that the constitutional inside is comprised not merely by matters of ruling and being ruled and other issues conventionally understood to lie at the heart of the field, but by all of the rules and practices that govern the scope - personal and territorial - of the community within which people are ruling and being ruled. Policies and practices regarding immigration and citizenship status, extraterritorial jurisdiction, military occupation, management of territorial possessions, assignment of enemy combatant status in war, rights of noncitizens, status of refugees and escapees - all of these infuse and give shape to the presumptive who and where which serve as backdrop to many of the questions that are conventionally considered to lie at the core of constitutional inquiry.

This excellent volume of essays directs its gaze precisely at the domains of interaction between the foreign and the domestic in the context of the American nation-state. Originally published as a special issue of the American Quarterly, it is a collection of articles by scholars in law, literature and history who are devoted to making sense of the United States by way of its legally constructed edges. Sometimes these edges are located at the nation's geographic frontier, but just as often they can be found on the other side of the world or in very heart of the nation's territory. And it is often in, and through, the bodies and minds of persons whether they happen to be territorially inside or not that these edges are most consequential. As the collection's editors Mary Dudziak and Leti Volpp write in their introduction, the volume's essays address not only spaces on the edge of American sovereignty, but also internal places at the heart of American identity. These are the legal borderlands of the volume's title.

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Date posted: April 30, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Bosniak, Linda S., Between the Domestic and the Foreign: Centering the Nation's Edges (2007). Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 24, pp. 271-284, 2007; LEGAL BORDERLANDS: LAW AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN BORDERS, Mary L. Dudziak, Leti Volpp, eds. pp. 8-421, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1126823

Contact Information

Linda S. Bosniak (Contact Author)
Rutgers University School of Law, Camden ( email )
Fifth and Penn Streets
Camden, NJ 08102
United States
856-225-6403 (Phone)
856-225-6516 (Fax)
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