“New Berlin Walls” and walling up sovereignty at the border

Room E
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
08.30 – 10.15
border, mental mapping, political-territorial control, state power, territory

The 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall in November 2014 only emphasized the misplaced nature of initial optimism that this fall would mark the end of such walls. As The Guardian had put it exactly a year earlier, “mankind is building separation barriers at a rate perhaps unequalled in history - at least 6,000 miles in the last decade alone” (“Our walled world” November 19, 2013). The anniversary has instead given licence to criticize the emergence of “new Berlin Walls” across post-Soviet space, not only with regards to the process of “borderization” occurring between Georgia’s breakaway territories and the remainder of that country, but also those supposedly being erected between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The emergence of such barriers in territory largely unified twenty-five years previously is vital to understanding the relation between the increasing and unceasing transnational flows across these borders marked by the Berlin Wall’s collapse and the concern with demarcating and securing of space. This notion of space reflects a process of bordering that seeks the permanent performance of sovereignty necessary for the ontological security of sovereign states. Such sovereignty is sought through maintaining a performance of state-claims woven into the fabric of society, but is constantly challenged by the presence of those exceptions that necessitate the construction of walls in the first place. It is the border’s presence at the sub-state, state and inter-state levels that draws our attention to the relational character of the sovereignty these walls are seeking to underpin.

Edward Kieran Boyle
Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies,
Kyushu University
tedkboyle [at]

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