Borders as negative freedom? Ethical dilemmas of bounding social space

Room E
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
15.00 – 16.45
borders, ethics

Borders and bounding have frequently been characterised as retrograde phenomena and reflections of highly asymmetric and exploitative power relations within human societies. This stable motif of critical geography is also steeped in ethical debates that question borders insofar as they signify social exclusion, reactionary localism and a false social consciousness. However, there appear to be few feasible alternatives to liberal notions of an “exclusive” but self-defined community as a necessary precondition of local democracy (see Batt 2002). Hence, a major challenge to liberal democracy is the democratic governance of its borders and openness to cultural difference. This paper will review ethical debates in border studies and trace their philosophical underpinnings. One question that arises is the extent to which the European Union, despite its contradictions and the selective permeability of its borders, might provide scenarios of democratic forms of border governance and regulation. An alternative to dichtomisations of the border based on “inclusion” and “exclusion” - which in many ways influence current public debate - is to think beyond the border complex as such and to comprehend the border as a product of multilevel tensions within European (and global) society

James W Scott
University of Eastern Finland
jscott4636 [at]

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