Peace at the Borders: Learn more

Contemporary border controls have been analysed by critical criminologists in terms of criminalisation and state crime, and are often characterised as a form of war at the border. This project moves beyond the critique of border control practices to identify some broad parameters that could guide a political project of peacemaking at the territorial borders of the nation state. In a policy context in which current understandings of the law and politics of national sovereignty and the economic imperatives of neo-liberal globalization appear to reduce the space available for practical action, this collection will adopt an innovative methodology to identify the conditions of possibility for a relaxation of border defences.

This project is a collaborative exercise in theory building which draws on existing research to generate new knowledge, but does not involve any empirical data gathering. The contributors are an exciting mix of emerging scholars and recognised experts in their respective fields, chosen for their individual creative capacities, the collective breadth of their intellectual vision, and the diversity of their geographical and cultural origins. Each contributor will discuss the prospects for a relaxation of border controls within a specified ‘border domain’ that aligns with their field of expertise. These domains have been identified by asking the question: What is the purpose of contemporary territorial borders? What interests and values are they mobilised to protect? The identified border domains are:

  • Economy i.e. the role of territorial borders in the regulation of capital, production, and labour.
  • Citizenship i.e. the role of territorial borders in defining the boundaries of political community and the rules for membership.
  • Governance i.e. the role of territorial borders in the provision of public goods, and relations between government authorities and other actors in decision-making, implementation and regulation.
  • Law i.e. the role of territorial borders in creating authority for legal prohibitions and positive entitlements.
  • Society i.e. the role of territorial borders in everyday social relations and organised civil society.
  • Culture i.e. the role of territorial borders in maintaining cultural forms and defining personal identity.
  • Morality i.e. the role of territorial borders in defining the boundaries of moral concern. Security i.e. the role of territorial borders as sites for the protection of individual and collective security.

The authors will engage in a thought experiment, each addressing an identical set of questions within their assigned domain. This approach identifies the project as a truly collaborative intellectual endeavour, rather than a disparate collection of writing on a related topic. The editor’s opening chapter will set out a specific methodology which contributors are invited to follow. The idea is to contain the prospect of unlimited speculation about the future by setting out a series of steps derived from scenario planning techniques, in which a ‘preferred future’ is identified (in this case, a future in which border crossing is available on an equitable and relatively open basis), and practical steps are then identified to reach the imagined goal.  This ‘preferred futures’ methodology gives rise to the following questions that will guide the discussion in each domain/chapter.

  1. What is the purpose of contemporary territorial borders in relation to <domain>?
  2. What signs are there, if any, that territorial borders are becoming less important in relation to protecting the values and interests in this domain?
  3. What conditions would need to apply in order that selectively preventing the crossing of territorial borders ceased to play a vital role in this domain?
  4. What could we do to try to create those conditions?

This is neither a historically determinist nor utopian exercise, but seeks to steer a course in between in order to identify directions for achievable political change. Other coercive practices or shifts into new governmental forms that pose their own challenges might be envisaged in order to underpin the relaxation of territorial borders. The imagined future could be a differently bordered, not a borderless world. There may still be inequalities in mobility and other entitlements in practice in this differently bordered world, and it could be a more physically settled world, not necessarily a world of incessant motion. These possibilities will be worked through by individual authors giving close attention to the empirical realities and prospects for change within their assigned domain.