Territory without Borders

Stuart Elden is professor of political geography at Durham University. 

What does it mean to speak of ‘territory without borders’? Let me say immediately that this is not the same as the ‘borderless world’ argument, nor in agreement with the idea that geography no longer matters. While borders are less important in some places, such as within much of Europe, in others they continue to be crucial. The US-Mexico border, the external border policing of Europe, and the Israeli wall in the West Bank are only the most striking examples of the continual importance of borders. I am not suggesting that we should comprehend the modern world through a lens that understands globalization as de-territorialization. Indeed, it is the concomitant processes of re-territorialization—the constant making and remaking of territories—that should perhaps be more of the focus in our empirical and political studies.

Nor am I using the phrase as a way of describing modes of political organizations such as Schengenland, which seeks to dispense with border controls. Schengenland has indeed been described as a ‘territory without borders’; it would be more accurate to describe it as an area with uneven borders. While it is true that mobility in Schengenland is much easier for those individuals whose status is good and whose papers are in order, mobility is restricted and strictly monitored through transnational security and policing for those who fail to meet these characteristics.

In addition, it is essential to note attempts to do away with borders within Europe have applied to its internal divisions, and have resulted in a stronger

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Stuart Elden

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