By Dr. Reece M Jones, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Despite predictions of an increasingly borderless world through globalization, the countries that are often described as the oldest democracy in the world, the largest democracy in the world, and the most stable democracy in the Middle East built a combined total of 5,700 kilometers of security barriers on their political borders over the past decade. Drawing on ethnographic field research in the United States, India, and Israel, this presentation analyzes the discourses of security that justified the construction of these barriers and argues they were based on similar representations of ungoverned territory and uncivilized people on the other side. Then, using the India-Bangladesh border as a case study, it argues that despite the rhetoric of external threats of terrorism and immigration, the underlying causes and enduring significance of the barriers are internal to each state. In all three cases, the border walls legitimate and intensify internal exclusionary practices. The walls legitimate exclusion by providing a material manifestation of the abstract idea of sovereignty, which brings the claim of territorial difference into being. It intensifies exclusionary practices because the continued presence of "the other"-whether immigrants or potential terrorists- inside the state's territory after the construction of the barrier suggests that even more forceful measures will be deployed in the future.
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