Academic journal article Migration Letters

Making Light of Borders the Case of the External EU Border

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Making Light of Borders the Case of the External EU Border

Article excerpt

Abstract

The notion of borders will be questioned in this paper by depicting an ethnographic journey from which a counter-discourse emerged, a discourse that contradicts with the currently acknowledged discourses of borders. Border discourses are dominated by security and threat, by the meaning of the bulwark that surrounds nation states in physical, legal, political and ideational terms. Scholars have examined borders from various different perspectives and within the framework of different disciplines; academic discourses have emerged over the years (such as on securitisation), while national governments across the globe as well as the European Union (EU) attempted to seal their permeable borders. They have introduced ever more legal obstacles and enforcement measures to put their goal into practice: preserving sovereignty. The commonly acknowledged discourses on borders will not be challenged per se in its existence, but empirical data will be used to demonstrate a different account of the notion of borders. This account makes light of the notion of borders as travellers followed their every-day business and dealt with the bulwark of the EU, the EU external border, with ease and amusement.

Keywords: border discourses, counter-discourse, securitization, EU external border, ethnographic journey.

The EU external border - securitization and maintaining sovereignty

The meaning of borders has changed in the modern world in terms of its power as well as governance (Barry et al. 1996; Dean 1999; Foucault 1990, 1991; Rose, 1999). The understanding and nature of state borders become challenged in the 'advanced industrialized regions of the world' (Andreas 2003; see also Sassen, 2006, 2007). Not only at discourse levels, new legislative measures, budgets of law enforcement, the deployment of sophisticated surveillance and information technology and the inclusion of the military reinvigorated the discussion around the 'reordering of the state' (see particularly Andreas and Biersteker 2003; Walters 2006). Borders were increasingly uttered with its underlying aim of controlling or more effective controlling. This process has been elaborated upon and empirically examined by a whole range of scholars including inter alia Adey (2004), Bigo (2002), Diivell (2006), Guiraudon (2003), Guiraudon and Lahav (2000), van der Ploeg (1999) or Salter (2003, 2004). One element of these discourses is for instance securitization or the assumptions that the theory of securitisation puts forward. It addresses various ways by which areas of the political arena and its processes can be formed by the framing of political discourses in terms of existential threat and the language of survival (see also Vollmer 2010). The language of security and the objects that are addressed by it play a decisive role, and one of these objects are borders and the maintenance of such borders. A creation of linkages between diverse policy areas, technologies and agents surrounding this discourse of securitizing border constitute a part of the 'security continuum' and the 'governmentality of unease' as Didier Bigo put it (2002). Borders became an affair of identity/culture politics and economic welfare but ever more an object of military and policing which increasingly involves an widening scale of actors (Andreas and Snyder, 2000; Bigo, 2000; Diivell and Vollmer, 2011; Lutterbeck, 2006; Neal, 2009; Vollmer, 2010; Mignolo and Tlostanova, 2006). Deploying military forces and police units is not only limited to 'points of entïf, i.e. border-crossings, but was extended farther into the territories of countries where surveillance technology as well as administrative mechanisms were increasingly advanced for this purpose. Nevertheless, at border-crossing the responsible enforcement units execute their checks on goods and people, a selection process that makes this point along the border an exceptional space and place. Border crossings represent a node in the border system or border regime which is the focal object in the framework of this paper. …

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