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Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly

Introduction: Borders, Borderlands, and Porosity

Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly et Bruno Dupeyron

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1Border security has been high on public-policy agendas in Europe and North America since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the headquarters of the US military in Washington, DC. Governments are now confronted with managing secure borders, a policy objective that, in this era of increased free trade and globalization, must compete with intense cross-border flows of people and goods. Border-security policies must enable security personnel to identify and filter out dangerous individuals and substances from among the millions of travellers and tons of goods that cross borders daily, particularly in large cross-border urban regions. For scholars the events of 9/11 triggered a greater interest in border studies. Currently, scholarship on borders, borderlands, and security is scarce, and the complexities and influence of borderlands on border-security policies are misunderstood.

2This book is a first attempt to address this gap between security needs and an understanding of borders and borderlands. Specifically, the chapters in this volume ask policy-makers to recognize that two fundamental elements define borders and borderlands: first, human activities (the agency and agent power of individual ties and forces spanning a border); and second, the broader social processes that frame individual action, such as market forces, government activities (law, regulations, and policies), and the regional culture and politics of a borderland.

3In other words, borders emerge as the historically and geographically variable expressions of human ties (agent power or agency), exercised within social structures of varying force and influence. It is the interplay and interdependence between individuals’ incentives to act and the surrounding structures (constructed social processes that contain and constrain individual action, such as market forces, government activities, the culture and politics of a place) that determine the effectiveness of formal border policy, and particularly of security policies. In short, in the face of increasing border security priorities, policy-makers have to recognize that the porosity of borders depends on the relative degree and form taken by human interaction across borders (Brunet-Jailly 2005).

4This book argues that the nature of borders is to be porous, which is a problem for the makers of security policy. It shows that when, for economic, cultural, or political reasons, human activities increase across a border and borderland, then governments need to increase their cooperation, collaboration, and co-production of security policies, if only to avoid implementing mismatched security policies.

5Acceptance of the concept of borders has contributed to the emergence of the modern political order, in which states recognize each other’s sovereign boundaries and their legitimate power over a demarcated territory. Since the First World War, however, the international recognition of boundaries has not always been enough. In effect, the legacy of Woodrow Wilson – that national self-determination is an essential principle of political legitimacy – modified the founding principles of numerous states and concurrently suggested that boundaries, borders, and borderlands may be more fluid than was generally assumed.

6The scholarship on borders and borderlands is enlightening in this matter because, during the last part of the twentieth century, scholars argued that borders were human creations. Originally, scholars focused on the nature and purpose of borders, while presenting a great diversity of views. Semple (as cited in Minghi 1963), for instance, suggested that ideal borders were natural geographic frontiers known for their scarcity of human settlements. Similarly, Holdich (1916) and Lyde (1915) suggested that there were good or bad borders. Holdich suggested that good borders were those that balanced economic tensions or lessened political difficulties between states. Spykman (1942) argued that it was not borders but borderlands that were central to geographic balances of power, while both Peattie (1944) and Jones (1959) suggested that borderlands or international organizations could reduce tensions.

7This literature emphasized the role of borders as buffer zones: borders were borderlands at the convergence of complex human interactions of an economic, political, and cultural nature. Borders and borderlands included temporal and geographic elements, a “desert” being probably the best answer to tensions between human communities. This explains why, during the first part of the twentieth century, armies rehearsed for combat in borderland regions. However, the influence of this literature progressively vanished during the second half of the twentieth century, when changes in boundary functions, such as military or policing, were also recognized as important reasons for possible tensions across borderlands (Jones 1959). Clearly, the activities of states were viewed as having an impact on the nature of borders and borderlands.

8What remained, however, from those early analyses of borders and borderlands was the concept that borders were central to the national agenda of states, that they were established by international agreements, and that they were challenged by individual activities (human agency and agent power). In the end their nature was the centre of attention, and from this emerged the belief that borders as institutions were results of complex interactions between multiple government policies, which were often back to back, not integrated, and, in most cases, had mismatched goals and priorities. Clearly, mismatched policies occur when two central governments struggle to see their policy goals and decisions, first, implemented within intergovernmental networks by lower government levels (province or state, county and local governments), and, second, accepted by their contiguous neighbours.

9More recent scholarly analyses of borders and borderlands point to four strands of research. Some scholars see borders as institutional constructs; others see them as challenged by national communities, with or without political clout, or by market forces. The multiple activities of governments, the role of borderland cultures, the political clout of borderland communities, and the impact of market forces are thus the four strands that are now prominent in the social science literature that organizes debates among scholars on the nature of borders and borderlands (Brunet-Jailly 2005; Chen 2005).

10Whether those strands of research address structural (broad social construct) or agency (individual action) questions is not always clear, however. Each strand of research may suggest an analytical dimension of borders and borderlands that should be understood not as exclusively structural (broad) or exclusively agent-oriented (focusing on individual action, agency), but rather as providing a historically variable expression of agent power. Concurrently, each research strand suggests that either culture, local political clout, market forces, or the multiple activities of governments may be variably structuring, where structure is understood as those social processes that contain individual action across borderland regions. In other words, there is a “tug of war” between culture, local political clout, market forces, and the multiple activities of governments, as they may be variably structuring a borderland. The following section details the literatures of those four strands of research.

11That states have a great responsibility for the structural nature of borders and borderlands is clear. Some argue that borders result exclusively from the multiple activities of governments, where the domestic setting of two countries is central. Hataley (2006), for instance, argues that for the United States the border institution is about security, inclusion, and exclusion, and that security frames all border issues, whereas for Canada border issues primarily belong to the economic-policy arena; thus, for the two countries the structuring policies vary widely, despite certain parallelisms. The contemporary analysis of complex government activities includes references to policy networks, policy communities, and multi-level governance spanning borderlands (Brunet-Jailly 2004a; Hataley 2006). Marks (1993) and Marks and Hooghe (2001) originally argued that multi-level governance was not only both vertical and horizontal but also of two types: (1) general-purpose and (2) task-specific. Their analysis of the traditional intergovernmental relations of the European Union (EU) is the best illustration of vertical governance as a process in which multiple levels of government interact to co-produce and co-implement policies. This view is relevant when scholars study, for instance, the EU’s legal system or its border-security policies (Andreas and Snyder 2000; Brunet-Jailly 2004b; Eriksen 2001; Kohler-Koch 1998; Marks and Hooghe 2001; Mayntz 1998; Ziller 2003). Such governance processes lead diverse actors to either co-produce and co-implement policy regulations or co-deliver specific services; a good example would be security policy in Europe or North America (Brunet-Jailly 2004b, 2006). Such policies result from complex, intermeshed networks of government policies and functions that interact to form international boundaries delineating sovereign spaces, as well as networks of security agencies straddling the boundary to co-produce border security. However, as shown by Villafuerte Solis in this volume, not all borders and borderlands experience the implementation of such security mechanisms. Thus, the multiple activities of governments should not be assumed to be systematically structuring and should be analyzed in context – in time and space – and in relation to borderland culture, market forces, and local politics.

12For instance, the complex and multiple roles and activities of governments do not account for the increasingly relevant role of market forces and flows of goods across international borders and borderlands. This second strand of research makes the case that market forces have been credited for the emergence of a borderless world and the rise of economic regions, but this is not without controversy. Although the specific exigencies of flows of individuals, goods, or currencies are not yet fully understood, they clearly have significant implications for borders and borderlands. Some economists argue that boundaries have a cost, while others argue, convincingly, that they are withering away due to increased amounts of global trade.

13For specialists of location or transportation, such as August Loesch (1954) or Engel and Rogers (1996), borders have a cost because they are barriers to trade and free trade (the free flow of goods, labour, or skills). Loesch equated borders with distances, that is, the marginal transportation cost necessary to cross the border, as do Engel and Rogers. John Helliwell (1998, 2002) underlines that borders matter because they run deep in the social and cultural underpinnings of social interactions. In other words, because Canadians are culturally Canadians they primarily interact with Canadians. Contrary to those views is the argument that globalization – not only the increase in global trade and transaction of goods and labour or capital but also economic integration in Europe and North America – challenges states. Ohmae (1996, 11-12) and Chen (2005) have found that trade is the main driver behind the emergence of economic regions, some of which are cross-border regions. Ohmae explains that an economic region emerges out of a culturally homogeneous borderland region, where both culture and trade are structuring the borderland.

14These arguments suggest that flows of goods, capital, and migrants not only limit the influence of central governments but also modify local cultures and political identities. Clearly, what is central to this debate is the acknowledgement that global market forces and economic integration are reshaping the relationship between markets and politics in borderland regions. This, in turn, is important for border-security matters because the assumption that free trade and globalization are systematically structuring borders and borderlands is true only relative to other structuring forces, such as government policy objectives. This book’s chapters on the borders between Guatemala and Mexico, the United States and Mexico, and Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus suggest that market forces may be as structuring as security policies.

15The third strand of research on borders and borderlands concerns the cultures of borderlands and emphasizes the important role that communities play in bridging or dividing borders. This literature suggests that certain communities actually enhance the border effect because they have no interaction with one another. Clearly, when culture differentiates, it enhances the border effect. In contrast, when culture bridges a borderland region, it challenges the border as a filtering or dividing device and weakens the border effect. Culture and cultural communities are therefore able to challenge or even undermine an international border when their cultures cross over, that is, when their language, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status and their place of belonging bridge the border (Reitel et al. 2002). Indeed, the literature on nations has shown that national borderland communities present an important challenge to borders in both Europe and North America. Other works are strong reminders that multinational communities are historically recent and that multiculturalism is a relatively new phenomenon (Taylor 1983).

16That culture is important to our understanding of borders and borderlands is not contentious. There is a vast literature by historians, geographers, anthropologists, and economists that points to borderland communities as cultural communities and organized polities (Brown 2001; DePalma 2001; Dobell and Neufield 1994; Meinhof 2004; Pavlakovich-Kochi, Morehouse, and Wastl-Walter 2004). However, the relative influence of their claims and the relative sense of belonging to a larger state are still debatable (Newman and Paasi 1998; Paasi 1999). Although international borders divide stateless nations, borderland communities may remain unified by culture (ethnicity, language, and/or religion) or by the nature of local political institutions. For example, three international borders divide the Kurds, two divide the Flemish, and one each divides the Basques, the Catalans, and the Irish, yet scholars generally agree that these borderland communities also bridge their borders (Hansen 1984; Keating 1996, 2001; Keating and McGarry 2001; Mitrani 1975; O’Dowd and Corrigan 1995; Tannam 1999).

17The current debate illustrates that the unifying and symbolic, yet dividing and exclusionary role of borders as a founding principle of sovereign states is under pressure (Balme 1998; Fry 1998; Risse-Kappen 1995; Smith, Chatfield, and Pagnucco 1997). A large scholarship describes how local actors and local communities are crossing borders and weakening the sovereign integrity of states, due either to economic need or to an ethnic, social, or religious sense of belonging. There is also a wealth of scholarly characterizations of how non-central-state actors, plurinational communities, and stateless nations perforate borders or undermine the integrity of state borders because of ethnic, religious, social, or economic identities (Castells 1998, 2000; Duchacek, Stevenson, and Latouche 1998; Keating 2001; O’Dowd and Corrigan 1995; Ohmae 1990, 1996; Papademetriou and Waller-Meyers 2001). It may be that culture is structuring borders and borderlands more effectively than market forces or the multiple activities of governments. In this volume, Tony Payan and Amanda Vasquez, as well as Melissa Gauthier, suggest that both market forces and shared culture are defeating the border-security policies of the United States and Mexico.

18Thus, local culture is another important strand for our understanding of borders and borderlands. The cultural influence of borderland communities, however, seems to depend on a central characteristic, namely, their political clout, which is understood as local political activism and organizational capacity. Underpinning this political clout is the existence of either tensions or strong linkages straddling the border. The literature documents two broad categories of case studies of cross-border communities that demonstrate either cooperation or tension. Some of these thrive while developing linkages and others either ignore each other or deal with ongoing tensions. There are few examples of borderland communities that have developed institutions spanning an international border (Brunet-Jailly 2004a), but there are many instances of contiguous borderland communities that have established linkages.

19Border cities serve as good examples of cities that experience tension with the central state (Ehlers 2001; Ehlers, Buursink, and Boekema 2001). In such cases the literature documents local tensions with the central-state level (Hansen 1984; Lunden and Zalamans 2001); local divergence of views across the border, despite the influence of higherlevel governments (Mattiesen and Burkner 2001); local multicultural tensions and wide binational differences, despite shared infrastructures (Bucken-Knapp 2001); and local tensions or an absence of sociopolitical relations, despite strong economic linkages (Brunet-Jailly 2004a; Sparrow 2001).

20In some cases, however, linkages have developed across an international border. Susan Clarkes (2000) has demonstrated the existence of policy networks and large interest-focused communities (such as scientific and policy-focused communities in the environmental policy arena) across the Canada-US border linking Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington. Brunet-Jailly (2004a) and Perkman (2005) have described institutions spanning the border in Enshede and Gronau (a large and well-institutionalized borderland community with its own parliament and bureaucracy, serving about 149 municipalities and districts) in the EU. In this case, local political clout may be structuring the borderland more effectively than market forces or the multiple activities of governments. In this volume, the ethnographic work of Julie Murphy Erfani on the Arizona-Sonora border and the Guatemalan case discussed by Daniel Villafuerte Solis corroborate the structuring influence of local political clout in border-security matters.

21In the end, the variably structuring nature of borderlands as analyzed in all four strands of border scholarship underlines the contemporary analytical complexity of borders and borderlands. Indeed, borders and borderlands are at the junctures of human cultural, political, and economic activities, and emulate the tremendous security challenges currently facing central governments and agencies. Thus it should come as no surprise that most of the research on border security concludes that border-security policies are mostly unsuccessful (Andreas 2000; Andreas and Biersteker 2003; Andreas and Snyder 2000). Peter Andreas (2003) argues that we may be witnessing a policy paradigm shift from military to economic to border policing, each linked to a specific historical path, first of demilitarization, then economic liberalization, and now criminalization of border policies. Furthermore, in the current era of increased security the “borderless world” argument – the underpinning issue of globalization and economic integration – does not seem to be called into question (Ohmae 1990, 1996; Survey of Migration 2002). Clearly, the study of borders and borderlands requires more than the partial explanations currently available to explain the relative porosity of borders.

22This book is a partial contribution to this incomplete account in the literature. It assumes that the human agency aspect of borderlands sets up a critically important environment for border-security policies. First, its aim is to illustrate the border porosity that results when governments overlook such critical factors as market forces, local culture, and the political clout of borderland communities. It also aims to illustrate that, in most instances, central-government agencies and their intergovernmental partners are poorly informed about a critical factor, namely, the policies and policy goals of the multitude of governments that actively enforce border security, hence contributing to a porous mismatch of security policies.

23Today two large international scholarly networks focus on border studies in Europe and North America: Border Region in Transition (BRIT), a primarily European network of researchers; and the Association of Borderland Studies (ABS), which originated in the United States with scholars interested in the southwestern region of North America but has since grown to include a large number of scholars in other countries. This book brings together the work of several border scholars, in both Europe and North America, who are currently researching the impact of border-security policies on borders and borderlands.

24The chapters in this book are based on research presented at a workshop organized by the Centre for Public Sector Studies at the University of Victoria in December 2005. At the workshop, about twenty scholars discussed the current implications of the new security measures on borders and borderlands. Specifically, the gathering allowed for a systematic discussion and comparison of border-security policies on the EU’s external borders and on the three borders of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the member states of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

25The general conceptual underpinning of their work, as summarized above, is the border model derived from Brunet-Jailly (2005), which suggests that local border culture and political clout, market forces, and the multitude of government activities play concurrent and essential roles in the agency and structure of borders and borderlands (see Figure 1).

26Using this model as a reference, the authors have assumed that as national border-security policies attempt to enable security personnel to recognize dangerous individuals and substances, they must compete not only with the increasingly large market-driven flows of goods and people crossing borders and borderlands but also with the local culture and political clout of borderlands, and the border-security policies implemented by other government levels and agencies. In other words, from a conceptual perspective, there is an agency-structure dilemma in the analysis of borders and borderlands, and the success of security depends primarily on the appropriate assessment of human agency across borders and borderland regions.

Figure 1: Theory of Borderland Studies

Figure 1: Theory of Borderland Studies

27The authors of this volume shared two overall goals: to document the impact of new security measures on the borderland regions of EU and NAFTA member states and to generate knowledge regarding the specific and common traits of the Canada-US border, the US-Mexico border, and the Mexico-Guatemala border, as well as the external border of the EU, with a focus on its northern border (the Arctic), its eastern border (Poland), and its southern border (the Mediterranean). A comparative analysis of the impact of security policies on the borders and borderlands of these two continental regimes is presented in the book’s conclusion.

28Olivier Clochard and Bruno Dupeyron, in “The Maritime Borders of Europe: Upstream Migratory Controls,” document the policy instruments used by EU member states to reduce and control immigration flows. Consular agents administer a discerning visa policy, which multiplies requirements abroad in an attempt to filter “bad” immigrants from “good” immigrants. The European Commission calls upon the transportation sector to meet high-compliance requirements. Similarly, peripheral states cooperate in order to limit immigration flows, signing twinning agreements that include hosting of “transit processing centres” outside the EU. Clochard and Dupeyron argue that these policies exemplify the increasing exportation of EU border policing to adjacent countries and suggests that, in the face of massive immigration flow, the structural success of border-security policies requires the collaboration of neighbouring governments.

29In “Whose Security? Dilemmas of US Border Security in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands,” Julie Murphy Erfani presents political ethnographic research that demonstrates the pernicious effects of competition between private and public security actors concerned with controlling cross-border flows of legal and illegal people and goods in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. The author has discovered that, while increased central-government controls galvanize social networks, anti-migrant activists have effectively blocked the emergence of an integrated cross-border security policy. Murphy Erfani concludes that local culture and local political clout have significantly reduced the effectiveness of a border-security policy, and that there are strong and integrating local market forces.

30Xavier Ferrer suggests in “Border Acrobatics between the European Union and Africa: The Management of Sealed-off Permeability on the Borders of Ceuta and Melilla” that the implementation of EU border security policies leads to an “acrobatic” policy exercise in which border security focuses primarily on illegal aliens rather than on the large flow of goods that are indispensable to the survival of the economies of both cities. The author suggests that the relative structuring effect of this border-security policy is key to understanding the negotiated fortification of each of these border towns.

31Melissa Gauthier, in “Fayuca Hormiga: The Cross-border Trade of Used Clothing between the United States and Mexico,” describes the illegal flow of used clothing and argues that its effective border crossing confirms the integrative force of human ties. Gauthier details the tug of war between such illicit networks, which are culturally and socioeconomically part of the borderland economy, and increased border-security policies. This competition underlines the structuring precedence of the borderland culture, which increased security does not sway. Because those market flows are rooted in the local borderland culture and local political clout of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, their permanence remains the most convincing evidence that the border-security policies are unsuccessful.

32Lassi Heininen and Heather Nicol, in “A New Northern Security Agenda,” document important changes in security agendas concerned with the Arctic region. The authors have found that Arctic security agencies, which have traditionally focused on issues of military geopolitical security, now also deal with human and environmental security. They argue that these changes are conducive to new policy goals, which reflect the cooperative nature of the peoples of the Arctic region and which include greater circumpolar cooperation with indigenous peoples, and with local governments and organizations. Heininen and Nicol conclude that, in debates regarding Arctic borderlands, borderland cultures and political clout are increasingly structuring.

33In “From Iron Curtain to Paper Wall: The Influence of Border Regimes on Local and Regional Economies,” Martin van der Velde and Szymon Marcińczak address the imposition of the EU’s security policy, that is, the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, on the eastern Polish border, its longest territorial border. They focused on the effects of this agreement on the regional economy of Łódź, Poland, and discovered that different local and regional responses to structural trends emerged as they followed the various actors’ interests and resources. Overall, despite increased security, economic agents have successfully adapted to those structural trends by reorganizing trade flows, and the economic vitality of the Łódź market has remained undisturbed.

34The chapter by J. Michael Patrick is entitled “The Potential Economic Cost of Border Security: The Case of the Texas-Mexico Border and the US VISIT Program.” Patrick argues that the US VISIT program may have a serious economic impact on the Texas-Mexico borderland region, in terms of reductions in economic activity, job creation, and cross-border shopping. He also argues that only increased consultation with borderland communities can increase security. In other words, although the structuring effect of US government policy is relative to the influence of border agency, border security also depends upon the active participation of a multitude of levels of government, which requires the participation of local communities.

35Tony Payan and Amanda Vasquez, in “The Costs of Homeland Security,” assess the total cost and cost-effectiveness of the new border-security environment that has been imposed on the Mexico-US border region. They draw a parallel between the cost efficiency of the security policy and the scholarly debate regarding agency and structure in order to argue that imposing border security is both highly ineffective and extremely costly, and that, in the end, illegal agents, including those that traffic in illegal migrants or drugs, adapt to new government policies. The chapter also suggest that the borderland “Chicano” culture and political clout, as well as market forces, are structuring the borderland, which remains unchallenged by centrally designed US security policies.

36In “Managing US-Mexico Transborder Cooperation on Local Security Issues and the Canadian Relationship,” José Ramos suggests that deeply rooted institutional dependency leads to a conflict between US and Mexican border and border-security policies, which are profoundly mismatched. Indeed, border-security policies come into direct conflict on the US-Mexico border because they oppose the US security priority with the Mexican migratory priority. Ramos suggests that the Canada-US border experiment is an example of better collaboration. He also suggests that a tug-of-war is taking place between (winning) market forces and (unsuccessful) policy activities of multiple levels of government on the US-Mexico border.

37In contrast to Ramos, Patrick Smith, in “Anti-terrorism in North America: Policy Convergence or Divergence in Canadian and US Legislative Responses to 9/11 and the US-Canada Border?” notes the increasing legislative and policy convergence occurring between Canada and the United States in the areas of security, particularly border security. He emphasizes that, despite a growing opposition among some Canadians, the Canadian government has enacted legislation, such as the Smart Border Agreement, in accordance with US expectations. Smith proposes that such negotiated convergence may be perceived as the emergence of new forms of continental governance. Thus the Canada-US model of border security cooperation may not only strengthen the structuring effect of government policy in the borderland but also be more secure because it results from increasing convergence and a common security goal.

38An original perspective on the Mexico-Guatemala border is provided by Daniel Villafuerte Solis in “The Southern Border of Mexico in the Age of Globalization.” This “third” border of the United States faces important challenges due to the increased market and migration flows as a result of NAFTA. Since the signature of NAFTA the southern Mexican borderland has been progressively transformed into a buffer zone that no government can control effectively. In the southern regions the Mexican military deals with political uprisings in the province of Chiapas, as well as unmanageable flows of migrants now linked to networks of criminal organizations that feed off poverty and social exclusion. Villafuerte Solis argues that policy-makers should implement economic development policies in these borderland regions that will reduce the labour flows linking the southern and northern Americas. The current situation suggests that market forces and local culture and local political clout are structural and clearly undermine the policy activities of government.

39Finally, in “Borders, Borderlands, and Security: European and North American Lessons, and Public Policy Suggestions,” Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly compares and contrasts the research findings presented in these chapters, and suggests a model for the implementation of border-security policies. This concluding chapter argues that to control porosity in densely populated borderlands, where culture, local political clout, and market forces cross over, central governments and their intergovernmental agencies have to work harder at creating networks of cooperation and policy goals common to the borderland.



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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Theory of Borderland Studies
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Local Government Institute, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Post-Doctoral researcher at the Local Government Institute, School of Public Administration, and lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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