Conflict at the Interface: The Impact of Boundaries and Borders on Contemporary Ethnonational Conflict

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Boundaries may have become more permeable than in the past, but they remain the hard lines that determine the territorial extent of the state and, by definition, the citizenship of those residing therein. Notwithstanding the discourse of deterritorialization and the “end of the state,” the hard boundaries that separate states in the international system remain important delimiters of power and partial sovereignty in the contemporary world. The relative impact of these boundaries on the surrounding borderland regimes has changed, in many cases to allow greater movement of people, goods, information, and cultural exchanges. But the impact of these changes remains highly differentiated and affects some areas, such as Western Europe, far more than others, where boundaries retain their traditional role as barriers to movement and interaction. In attempting to understand these changes, boundary studies have undergone a major renaissance during the past decade. From the study of hard territorial lines and the process of boundary demarcation, contemporary research has taken on a wider range of boundary-related topics, such as territorial identities, borderlands and border regimes, the perception of boundaries, and the nature of boundary management. The analysis of boundaries has also shifted in focus from the preeminence of international boundaries to include a range of spatial and administrative intrastate scales, in which the functional impact of the boundary/border on the daily lives of people is as great as, if not greater than, the line that separates one state from another. It is the process of bordering, rather than the course of the line per se, that is important to our understanding of how boundaries affect the nature of interaction, cooperation, and/or conflict between peoples. This is part of a dynamic process in which boundaries not only reflect a given formal political or administrative status as determined by the state, but are also reformulated as a result of war, conflict resolution, negotiations, unilateral imposition, and so on. Conflict still takes place in and around boundaries and borderlands, in some cases as a result of traditional issues of demarcation with respect to territorial attributes, such as natural resources, and in others as a result of their incompatibility with the expanding horizons of identity politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Geography of War and Peace
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Death Camps to Diplomats
EditorsC. Flint
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780197562079
ISBN (Print)9780195162080
StatePublished - 2005


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