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Borders and Border Walls, a new era? (In)security, Symbolism, Vulnerabilities. International conference September 27-28, 2018

International conference organized by the Raoul Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the following redefinition of international relations were meant to open an age of globalization in which states and sovereignty were to become obsolete and  borders  irrelevant. However,  in  the  wake  of  9/11,  borders  came  back  into  focus  and  new ones  were  drawn.  With  this  trend,  border  barriers,  fences,  and  walls  that  were  expected  to  be  a historical symbol of a collapsed bipolar system were erected at a pace that defied all predictions.

Many of   them are armored,   cemented,   monitored,   filmed,   and   patrolled.   In   this new environment, walls, razor wire, sensors, helicopters, barriers, (wo)men, border guards and drones have become the accessories of hard borders in an open world, complemented and reinforced by policies oriented towards the double movement of externalization and internalization of borders and the hardening of visa and asylum policies.

Border  walls  though  trigger quasi  automatically  a  circumvention  reflex, from  a  form  of resistance  through  art,  border projects,  civil  disobedience  to the  digging  of  tunnels and smuggling  stratagems. With  their bodies,  through  their  presence,  migrants  resist  as  well.  Walls lead to redrawn migration routes; they don’t deter crossings as shown by data from humanitarian and  government  agencies.  Walls  are  not  impermeable: there  are  no fortresses,  solely control points, that  owe much  of their efficiency to  their  symbolic power,  which does  not  hold  much when  migrants  fear  so  much  that  nothing discourage them  anymore,  or  when  the  economic disequilibrium between two neighboring countries works as a magnet for underground economy.

Often  represented  as  way  to  gain  security,  border  walls  also  impact  daily  life  in  the borderlands, redefining  the  surroundings  and  the  lives  of  borderland  communities, from  the economic relations to the environment and wildlife. Through the process of internalized borders, individuals become sites of control and the experience of borders become individualized.

This redefinition of borderlands goes beyond the geographical border zone, impacting the regional system through the modification of political ties, economic relations and socio-cultural exchanges.  Transborder  flows,  both  commercial  and  human,  are  now  front  and  center  in international relations and interstates negotiation. Border walls shape interaction between states, organizations and individuals.

It is now clear that walls have become a normalized response to insecurity. Border walls redefine  borderlines  around  the  world,  sealing  and  hardening what  used  to  be  porous  soft borders. Thus,  if  globalization  is  blurring  borders,  walls  emphasize  them.

These infrastructures need  to  be  assessed  in  terms  of efficiency,  economic,  environmental  and  humane  costs. Why build border barriers if they do not solve the issues they have been erected for? What should be done  instead?  What  is  the  role  of  academia and  border  scholars? And  where does  the  civil society come in? Border walls tangible impact on local societies, economies, and ecosystems, on world migrations, on national policies will be assessed too.

 

Fields:
Political  Science,  Geography,  Anthropology,  Sociology,  Law,  Economics,  Art, Design,  Biology, Environmental  studies,  Area  Studies,  Gender  studies,  Zoology,  Medical studies (this list is intended to be suggestive rather than inclusive).

 

Organizers/Scientific Committee:
Élisabeth  Vallet  (Raoul Dandurand  Chair, UQAM – Canada),  Anne-Laure  Amilhat-Szary  (Geography,  Université  Joseph  Fourier – France), Andréanne  Bissonnette  (Raoul  Dandurand  Chair,  UQAM – Canada), Emmanuel  Brunet-Jailly  (Borders  in  Globalization,  University  of  Victoria – Canada), Irasema  Coronado (Political Science, University of Texas at El Paso – USA), Cristina Del Biaggio (Geography, Université  Grenobles  Alpes – France), Reece  Jones  (Geography,  University  of  Hawaii – USA),  Kenneth  D.  Madsen  (Geography,  The  Ohio  State  University – USA),  Said  Saddiki (Law, Al-Ain University of Science and Technology – UAE).