Article

Borders and Boundaries

Joshua Hagen

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online February 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0056
Borders and Boundaries

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Borders and boundaries, commonly defined as the lines dividing distinct political, social, or legal territories, are arguably the most ubiquitous features within the field of political geography. Indeed, borders have become prominent topics of research for a range of scholars from across the social sciences and humanities. This burgeoning, interdisciplinary field of border studies covers a broad range of concerns, including state sovereignty, globalization, territorial disputes, trade, migration, and resource management, among other topics. As a distinct field of academic inquiry, border studies drew its initial impetus from geopolitical rivalries among European powers coinciding with rapid colonial expansion and devastating world wars during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As such, early border scholars generally focused on advancing the strategic interests of their home states pertaining to territorial claims and border demarcation. After 1945, however, scholars worked to disassociate their field from the narrow, prejudiced interests of their respective governments. As a result, border research tended to be rather descriptive, focusing on terminology and classification. This began to change around 1980—ironically, as some scholars, mostly from business and technology backgrounds, began predicting an imminent “borderless” world. In response, geographers and other social scientists developed new methodological and theoretical approaches for border studies. By the turn of the 20th century, border studies could justifiably claim to be experiencing a renaissance. Despite its breadth and interdisciplinary nature, there are some general themes that run through early-21st-century border research. Most prominent is the understanding of borders as a process; that is, borders result from processes of bordering that differentiate among places, peoples, and jurisdictions. This emphasis on process highlights borders as active forces and resources in international and domestic political, social, and economic relations. It also highlights the contingency and variability in bordering practices both across space and time. Moving forward, this makes plain that borders and bordering practices are undergoing substantive changes, both symbolically and materially, amid globalization. But it is equally important to emphasize that the changing nature of borders does not suggest that they are evolving in a uniform direction, much less simply vanishing. Instead, borders are likely to exhibit greater variability and contingency in the future, making their study even more important for understanding an expanding range of issues.

Article.  10345 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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