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Toward a Critical Geography of the Border: Engaging the Dialectic of Practice and Meaning

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Recent scholarship has pointed out the multidimensional character of national borders and the implausibility of the border as a single and coherent concept. In this article, I build on this scholarship as I discuss how geographers can critically engage in the dialectic of the border concept. To develop this argument, I review some of the existing literature on the concept of the border and cross-border migration and suggest that various material practices and meanings related to borders can be conceived of as “aspects” of the border concept. I argue that the impossibility of integrating these aspects into a coherent concept constitutes an important moment in the dialectic of the border. Critical geographers have an opportunity to engage with this border dialectic by offering meanings of borders that enable new possible border practices. I advocate a democratic aspect of the border concept decoupled from the state and implemented through a multitude of possible practices. I recognize that the consequences of such scholarly engagement in the border dialectic are not entirely foreseeable and therefore require continual reflection.

Keywords: aspect-seeing; borders; critical geography; dialectics; dialéctica; fronteras; geografía crítica; migración; migration; vislumbrando aspectos

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography,Ryerson University,

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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