Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson - Border as Method

Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson. Border as Method. London: Duke University Press, 2013.
"Fog and dirt, violence and magic have surrounded the tracing and institution of borders since late antiquity. Sources from around the world tell us wonderful and frightening stories about the tracing of demarcation lines between the sacred and the profane, good and evil, private and public, inside and outside. From the liminal experiences of ritual societies to the delimitation of land as private property, from the fratricide of Remus by Romulus at the mythological foundation of Rome to the expansion of the imperial limes, these stories speak of the productive power of the border—of the strategic role it plays in the fabrication of the world. They also convey, in a glimpse, an idea of the deep heterogeneity of the semantic field of the border, of its complex symbolic and material implications. The modern cartographical representation and institutional arrangement of the border as a line—first in Europe and then globalized through the whirlwind of colonialism, imperialism, and anticolonial struggles—has somehow obscured this complexity and led us to consider the border as literally marginal. Today, we are witnessing a deep change in this regard. As many scholars have noted, the border has inscribed itself at the center of contemporary experience. We are confronted not only with a multiplication of different types of borders but also with the reemergence of the deep heterogeneity of the semantic field of the border. Symbolic, linguistic, cultural, and urban boundaries are no longer articulated in fixed ways by the geopolitical border. Rather, they overlap, connect, and disconnect in often unpredictable ways, contributing to shaping new forms of domination and exploitation."
(page vii)

"In the past few years, we have become increasingly uncomfortable with the fixation in many critical border studies as well as activist circles on the image of the wall. This does not mean we do not recognize the importance of the worldwide spread of walls just a few decades after the celebration of the fall of the Berlin wall. But independent of the fact that many walls are far less rigid than they pretend to be, taking the wall as the paradigmatic icon of contemporary borders leads to a unilateral focus on the border’s capacity to exclude. This can paradoxically reinforce the spectacle of the border, which is to say the ritualized display of violence and expulsion that characterizes many border interventions. The image of the wall can also entrench the idea of a clear-cut division between the inside and the outside as well as the desire for a perfect integration of the inside. As we show in this book, taking the border not only as a research ‘‘object’’ but also as an ‘‘epistemic’’ angle (this is basically what we mean by ‘‘border as method’’) provides productive insights on the tensions and conflicts that blur the line between inclusion and exclusion, as well as on the profoundly changing code of social inclusion in the present."
(page viii)

"Borders, on one hand, are becoming finely tuned instruments for managing, calibrating, and governing global passages of people, money, and things. On the other hand, they are spaces in which the transformations of sovereign power and the /ambivalent nexus of politics and violence are never far from view. To observe these dual tendencies is not merely to make the banal but necessary point that borders always have two sides, or that they connect as well as divide. Borders also play a key role in producing the times and spaces of global capitalism. Furthermore, they shape the struggles that rise up within and against these times and spaces—struggles that often allude problematically, but in rich and determinate ways, to the abolition of borders themselves. In this regard, borders have become in recent years an important concern of research and political and artistic practice. They are sites in which the turbulence and conflictual intensity of global capitalist dynamics are particularly apparent."
(pages 3-4)

"We are prone to see borders as physical walls and metaphorical walls, such as those evoked by the image of Fortress Europe. This seems even more the case after the events of September 11, 2001, when borders became crucial sites of ‘‘securitarian’’ investment within political rhetoric as much as the actual politics of control. We are painfully aware of all of this. Yet we are convinced that the image of the border as a wall, or as a device that serves first and foremost to exclude, as widespread as it has been in recent critical studies, is misleading in the end. Isolating a single function of the border does not allow us to grasp the flexibility of this institution. Nor does it facilitate an understanding of the diffusion of practices and techniques of border control within territorially bound spaces of citizenship and their associated labor markets. We claim that borders are equally devices of inclusion that select and filter people and different forms of circulation in ways no less violent than those deployed in exclusionary measures. Our argument thus takes a critical approach to inclusion, which in most accounts is treated as an unalloyed social good. By showing how borders establish multiple points of control along key lines and geographies of wealth and power, we see inclusion existing in a continuum with exclusion, rather than in opposition to it. In other words, we focus on the hierarchizing and stratifying capacity of borders, examining their articulation to capital and political power whether they coincide with the territorial limits of states or exist within or beyond them. To analyze the pervasive character of the border’s operations—let alone the marked violence that accompanies them—we need a more complex and dynamic conceptual language than that which sustains images of walls and exclusion."
(page 7)

"The political theorist Wendy Brown (2010) has illustrated how the proliferation of walls and barriers in the contemporary world is more a symptom of the crisis and transformation of state sovereignty than a sign of its reaffirmation."
(page 8)

"According to Eyal Weizman: ‘‘The frontiers of the Occupied Territories are not rigid and fixed at all; rather they are elastic, and in constant formation. The linear border, a cartographic imaginary inherited from the military and political spatiality of the nation state has splintered into a multitude of temporary, transportable, deployable and removable border-synonyms—‘separation walls,’ ‘barriers,’ ‘blockades,’ ‘closures,’ ‘road blocks,’ ‘checkpoints,’ ‘sterile areas,’ ‘special security zones,’ ‘closed military areas’ and ‘killing zones’’’ (2007, 6). Shortly we return to the distinction between the border and the frontier. For now, we want to note the emphasis Weizman places on the elasticity of the territory and the mobility of techniques for controlling the limit between inside and outside in a situation dominated by what should represent the most static crystallization of the linear border: a wall, no less. Clearly the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories needs to be examined in its specificity. But what Weizman calls the elasticity of territory is also a feature that can be observed in relation to the operation of many other borders across the /world."
(page 8-9)