Rethinking Borders, Violence, and Space

19 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2010

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 28, 2010


The paper I am proposing draws on my earlier analysis of hard borders, violence, fluid identities and political space. Given our contemporary landscapes of mobility and immobility, failing sovereigns and competing ethnocrats, new global actors, and modes interaction, we need to be rethinking our notions of political association beyond container states and fixed territorial spaces. The practices of fixing identities into differential political statuses and arbitrary geographic borders are particularly dangerous as responses to “crises.” While many pundits suggest that it is the lack of defined or secure borders that encourages violent conflicts, facilitates terror-bent incursions, and tempts traffickers to defy border guards, I argue that it is the proliferation of hard borders (symbolic, legal, and material walls, fences, and frontiers) that incites violence, provides mechanisms for domination, and undermines opportunities for peaceful and sustainable political association. In the face of “hard times,” this is not a utopian argument for world government, but an attempt to rethink the relationship of borders, violence, and space.

This paper draws on my earlier interrogation of traditional notions of sovereignty in the context of ongoing processes of fragmentation and integration and my concern that the linkage of citizenship to nationality in this context exposes many individuals to conditions of extreme vulnerability and violence. Using the theme of crises to frame moments of conflict, multiple strains, uncertainty, and vulnerability in symbolic and physical borderlands, the paper will attempt to pose both the dangerous securitizing pressures to close and harden borders and the liberating possibilities of fluidity and malleability, opening and softening of borders. Softening borders undermines the construction of power relations around fixed definitions of difference and institutionalized practices of domination and violence. While the instinct toward closure is often built into narratives of “hard times” and the language of crisis; I hope to offer resistance to this turn through both an analysis of moments of crisis and a re-thinking of borders, violence, and space.

Suggested Citation

Mostov, Julie, Rethinking Borders, Violence, and Space (August 28, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Julie Mostov (Contact Author)

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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