Borders, Bordering and the Limits of Democracy: Rethinking the Boundaries of Territorial Sovereignty
Whitt, Matt Spencer
This thesis argues that, contrary to some prevalent intuitions, national borders are not being rendered obsolete by the increasingly global or deterritorialized character of social and political life. Rather, as state sovereignty becomes less and less anchored to geographic territory, borders have replaced land as an interpellative strategy with which states construct a demos or public over which power can be exercised. State borders work to supply this public with a coherent and homogenous national-political identity that frames, and in many contexts occludes, the articulation of specific heterogeneous identities within that public. Of course, borders by themselves do not do anything. I argue that political geography and political anthropology commit a serious mistake when they treat borders as independent things or processes that act upon individuals and peoples. Borders are not extra-personal third parties to the interactions of persons. Rather, they are instances of bordering, the discursive activity through which subjects articulate difference in ways that construct their identities in relation to others. However, borders appear as independent agents because they have been separated from other operations of bordering-- and, most importantly, from the bordering subjects themselves-- by processes of alienation, objectification and abstraction. Consequently, the articulation of national-political identities occurs primarily by means of a suppression of the concrete subjects whose life-activity in fact structures-- and is deeply structured by-- these identities.