Archive for July, 2013



Creative Mornings invited to me to talk at the July instalment of their monthly breakfast lecture series. The month global CM theme for july was space and I spoke about borders, drawing on my research to discuss the ongoing relevance of borders, despite claims that we are moving towards a borderless world. Asking questions inspired by research into geopolitical borders allows us to consider borders more generally, as metaphor, heuristic or lens on the world and the ways we can live in it – apart and together.

The beautiful setting of the Piazetta courtyard at the National Theatre, the coffee and snacks laid on by the CM team and the glorious morning sunshine all helped things go with a swing. There were some really good comments and questions afterwards and met a lots of nice and interesting people. It was inspiring for me to see how many other people are interested in borders and how and why we make and break them.

Many thanks to Lenka, Lada & Jiri from Creative Mornings and to the excellent photographers who captured such interesting images of the event – Jakub Sodomka and Everbay Photography

Here is the link to the full video – beautifully produced by Jiri, Lenka, Lada & the crew …

You can watch the second half of the talk (on the more general/ conceptual aspects of bordering) here. The outline of the talks is included below


Creative Mornings: Prague – Talk Outline

  • Space & Borders
    • Many thanks for the introduction and many thanks to Lenka, Lada and Jiri for inviting me to address this interesting – and, to me I have to say largely new – audience about a topic that is very close to my heart and which has changed the way that I look at the world, how we might go about being in it and indeed how we can change it …


  • As you know, the CM theme for this week is Space – so why borders?


  • They are one of the ways in which we divide space and make spaces into places  – which, as a brief definition are spaces that have acquired a particular or dominant meaning, although this is not uncontestable – On the other hand, spaces are yet to become places; other than in the sense that their very openness and lack of specific meaning makes them a particular kind of place – a space. Spaces, therefore, are (as yet unrealised) potential places, whereas places are the potential of a space exhausted – for now – in a particular set of meanings
  • In effect, they are one of the ways we make space meaningful
  • While space is open and full of possibility and potential, borders and the place or meaning making that they imply often seem to shut things down, to close things off, but I hope to be able to persuade you that that is not always the case & that understanding borders  – and why we need them – is an interesting and important way to understand how we live. Moreover, I will argue that these processes are actually necessary and desirable .
  • So, today, I will start by talking about borders as they are commonly understood – state borders – and particularly how they have changed over the last 25 years … and then go on to discuss how the research that I have been doing on this topic prompted me to think about borders more widely. I hope that in doing so, I will challenge some of your borders and prompt you to do likewise …


  • Post Cold War – Towards a Borderless World?
    • Much talk of a borderless world, a global village,
    • End of Superpower Conflict – Fall of Berlin Wall
    • Economic Globalisation
    • The internet and the comms revolution
    • Political Integration – such as the EU
    • The rise of global NGOs – the zeitgeistb seemed very much one of a world trying to become sans frontiers?
  • Specific Example – European Integration as Breaking Down Old Borders
    • Deepening – breaking down internal borders
      • Towards political union rather than old conflict or frozen fear
      • Completion of Single Market
      • Creation of Schengen Zone  (Area of Freedom, Justice & Security)
      • 4 Freedoms of Movement (Goods; Services; Capital; Labour)
  • Widening – extending the zone of this interior, this inside …
    • EU Eastern Enlargement (2004 & 2007)
    • European Neighbourhood Policy (2003)
    • Eastern Partnership (2009)
  • But … De-bordering or Re-bordering
    • Schengen: Trans European Networks of Control (Walters)
      • Roving Border Guard Teams – Irregular Migration
      • Mobile Customs Patrols – Smuggling & Trade Violations
      • Police Actions in Cities – Persistent Internal Control
      • Strengthen the Perimeter – Increased External Control
  • Enlargement: Exclusive Inclusion
    • Ostensible Widening – A Europe Whole & Free?
    • ‘Return to Europe’ or Creation of ‘Non-Core’ Europe-  derrida, habermas
    • Accession and Learning to be European – teachers and pupils – new rules, new borders …
    • Defining European-ness Through Membership & Conduct
      • Behaving like someone eles’s idea of what a European is
      • But with the potential to shape this in future
    • The End of Enlargement & The Limits of Europe?
  • ENP & EaP: Inclusive Exclusions
    • Ameliorating the Effects of the New Curtain – not iron, but paper and glass – the visa curtain – seems inclusive but to what extent?
    • Neighbours, Partners but not (Future) Members – borders again …
    • Is it about a Ring of Friends or a new Buffer Zone in which the EU Exports and outsources its Borders?
    • Desire for Closer Ties – Need for Labour & Access to Markets +
    • Fear of the East – Inward Migration & Cross Border Crime
    • But where is the east and how do we know – how has this changed over time – where is Eastern Europe – why do we here in Prague call ourselves central Europeans?
  • Borders as Geopolitical Phenomenon
    • Borders still exist just not (only) at the borders we used to know
    • Borders as Intersection of Security and Mobility
      • Security of what from what?
      • Mobility of what type for who?
        • is this chosen or forced? Is it the same for everyone – mob egs
    • What do they mandate, encourage, discourage or prevent?
    • What does this tell us about who and how we can be?
  • Leads to Wider Questions about Borders as Heuristic or Metaphor
    • Where are our borders?
      • As citizens, as men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, law abiders, criminals, entrepreneurs, conformists and creatives?
      • What are borders and what do they do?
        • Are all our borders about security and mobility
        • Perhaps they are also to do with probability and possibility, action and dream ..
        • How are borders created, confirmed or challenged?
          • Formal borders –legal, state, etc; informal borders – norms, conventions, habits, limits of imagination & creativity
          • All borders are artificial in the sense that they are social constructs
          • Doesn’t make them any less real but does mean that they can be contested and challenged,
          • How are borders policed or transgressed?
            • How are they enforced? How do we police ourselves in this regard?
            • How do they change over time?
            • Why do borders exist?
              • Why might we want them to?
  • Borders, Imposition and Desire
    • How and why are borders imposed?
      • Which borders can we think of as being imposed on us?
      • When do we want to be secure?
      • How and why is this accepted or resisted?
        • Do we accept all the borders that are imposed on us?
        • When do we want to be open or mobile?
        • How and why do we actually desire borders?
          • What borders do you desire or want to maintain?
          • Would you open the borders to your home? Your bedroom? Your body? Under what circumstances and how much ctrl do you have or want over this?
          • Who gets to make your borders?
            • You? Other people? Some combination of the two?
            • If we were to transgress the borders of language, we would struggle to make ourselves understood, but, over time words change their meaning in different context, become acceptable or unacceptable, but all of this relies on common understandings of them …
  • How do your borders relate to your identity and your horizons of possibility?
    • Your borders to a certain extent give you an idea of who you are
    • Repeated interaction with your borders gives you a sense of yuour current possibilities and limits
  • Borders, Identities, Orders
    • Identity – Your Borderscape
      • Access to different places and spaces
        • Nightclub example –
    • Belonging within a particular place (bounded by borders
    • Who gets to be there who doesn’t?
    • Who is in place and who is ‘out of place’
    • So, who gets to do what and who does not …
    • If borders relate to Identity then do we carry the border with us?
      • We trigger some of the borders that seem to spring up …
      • Zafer senocak – the border runs, right through my tongue
  • Orders – How we live with Others
    • What is a particular place for?
    • What are the activities that are supposed to take place there?
    • Where does that place stop and a new place start?
    • Who gets to decide that and how is it enforced?
    • Who gets to participate? Who is that place for
    • Spatial, Temporal and Social
      • How we can be in and make places
      • How we can change them or how we want to keep them as they are
      • What does it mean when borders are not just at the edge?
      • What is the history of a place, how has it changed over time?
      • How do power relations work in these contexts
      • How do borders and this access/ denial/ freedom/ oppression matrix work to make us who we are?
  • Bordering as Self & World Knowledge
    • How the world sees you
      • You know retty quickly if you are welcome or not
      • 1st/ 2nd class at the border – waiting or passing… at home or out of place?
      • How you see the world and yourself in it
        • Where can you go, what can you do, who can you be?
        • Is it where you would like to be …
        • Volker Braun – I’m still here but my country’s gone west …
        • How we can live and who we want to live with
          • Whose in and whose out?
          • How we can dream and imagine as well as how we stay grounded and practical
            • Possibility and durability – are we ready for total flux?
            • Borders as social and political
              • We do this together and so we have to rtecognise how power relations work, how we can ifluence or compel others and how they can do the same to us ..
              • How does going to palladium influence the situation of the homeless person
              • Borders connect us as well as divide us – relations of exclusion are still relations …
  • Beyond Borders?
    • Making Borders
      • Which borders do you help make
      • For creative types? Who is in, who is out?
      • Breaking Down Borders
        • How do you challenge your borders
        • How do you help other people challenge theirs’?
        • Knowing Borders
          • How do we know our borders?
          • How do we go about finding out?
          • This is the key to challenging those we want to challenges and to maintaining the bodrers that we want to keep.

Border Research Overview

Posted: July 25, 2013 in Uncategorized




Research Context: Borders Beyond Borders

The EU’s Eastern enlargement and the creation (and subsequent extension) of the Schengen ‘borderless zone’ seemed to embody the inclusive, globalising zeitgeist of the post-cold war era. However, rather than de-bordering, both projects may actually be part of a complex re-bordering that is indicative of modes of EU governance and trends and developments in European societies. EU bordering in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) is seen as uniquely contingent, but also as indicative of wider border trends, in that its bordering policy and practice is now ‘extra-territorial’, rendering it socially, spatially and temporally complex.

The increased complexity of EU borders that have slipped the territorial leash has made them no less significant for understanding the EU’s ‘identity’ and for the ways in which it creates, maintains or alters societal orders, as well as for its positioning in relation to ‘Neighbours’, ‘Partners’ and in the wider world. Similarly, extra-territorial borderings are seen to be just as significant as ‘traditional’ borders in the impact that they have on negotiations and performances of identity, being and belonging in Europe today (e.g. Lapid, 2001).

However, as borders have moved beyond traditional, territorial, understandings of what and where they are, it has been necessary to develop new modes and methods of inquiry in order to understand how they are made and the impacts they have. Developing a new modes of looking for (and at) borders and bordering and employing interpretive methodology this project examines three key sites of contemporary European bordering: within the Schengen zone; at the external, territorial frontier; and in neighbouring countries (the ‘Eastern Partners’ of the European Neighbourhood Policy). In each case, this research project seeks to avoid the polarised views and fetishisation of extreme cases that have become common in discussion and analysis of borders and bordering (e.g. Vaughan-Williams, 2007). Rather, this research looks for the logics and experiences of many groups involved in constituting and contesting contemporary European bordering. It is hoped that this project will not only make an academic impact, but that it can also contribute to better communication between these participants, thus raising possibilities for fairer and more accountable, yet secure bordering policy and practice. This explicitly aligns the research with a “critical pragmatism” (Kurowska & Tallis, 2013) that seeks to put academic sophistication in the service of producing “useful knowledge” (Friedrichs & Kratochwil, 2009).

Research Sites (I): Free Like Schengen?

The apparent removal of borders in the Schengen zone may actually restrict some of the very freedoms that it claims to promote (Bigo, 2002; Walters, 2002). A growing body of academic research points to the tension at the heart of Schengenland which, while it has facilitated freer movement for many people, has also created what, in effect are “trans-European networks of control” (Walters, 2006). If border functions can now potentially take place at any point on road or rail networks, in towns, cities and at the airports that serve them, this suggests that internal, de-territorialised borders now run throughout the Schengen zone. The activities of mobile Customs units attempting to detect contraband or drugs, roving Border Guard teams trying to interdict ‘illegals’ and the urban actions of Police and other public and private agents are indicative of such analyses (e.g. Walters, 2006). However, what is equally clear is that millions of people enjoy the benefits of the freer movement that Schengen and are willing to agree to security measure claimed to facilitate this movement. It is the relationship between the securities and mobilities of the various groups and people who (attempt to) traverse the Schengen zone that this project seeks to understand (Guild, 2009; Cresswell, 2010). Therefore, as the functions that were traditionally located at the nation-state border are distributed to various agencies in many locations, it is now necessary to hunt the border in the ‘borderless’ zone.

Research Sites (II): Final Frontier of Fortress Europe?

The accession to the EU of ten Central and East European (CEE) states pushed its formal, territorial border Southward and Eastward, drawing a new curtain through the Postcommunist world. While ‘Eastern’ enlargement has formally ‘included’ some people(s) in the officially sanctioned category of ‘EUropeanness’, this has also meant excluding others who have been deemed unworthy of membership and effectively declared to be ‘non-EUropean’ (on the EU’s terms). This questions the interplay of desire and denial in relation to hierarchical delineations of belonging, which are contested by, yet operate through, particular identities and political subjectivities (Kuus, 2004; Zaoitti, 2007; Jeandesboz, 2007; Jansen, 2009). In contrast to the seemingly relaxed, yet opaque situation in the Schengen zone, the clearly demarcated external frontier is a closely guarded ‘hard’ border with tight controls, extensive physical barriers and camps for detaining ‘illegals’, all designed to filter the authorised wheat from the undesirable chaff (Newman, 2006). The architectures and practices of border control at this frontier also tell us much about EU border making, which remains as much about facilitating certain kinds of mobility as well as preventing others in the name of security (CASE, 2006; Green, 2009). This project thus looks to examine the complex relation between the EU (including agencies such as FRONTEX) and the newer Schengen member states responsible for maintaining the EU’s territorial frontier. This inquiry looks at and for the logics and understandings that underpin the negotiation of security and mobility and how these play out in policy and practice as well as how they are experienced by people ‘inside’, ‘outside’ and in the penumbra of the EU and the Schengen zone.

Research Sites (III): Inside the Outside?

In the context of the foreseeable end to enlargement, and conscious of the ramifications of this new insider-outsider topography, the EU developed the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and, subsequently the Eastern Partnership (EaP) to ameliorate the divisive and disruptive effects of this new curtain, with the Union’s interests couched in the language of partnership and technical assistance (EUBAM, 2006; Chandler, 2006). Such developments are seen to impact on belonging and subjectivity, with particular identities fostered (through bordering), to the detriment of Other ways of being and becoming, which remain unrecognised as ‘European’ or ‘EUropean’ (Chandler, 2006; Kuus, 2004). As well as exporting border policy and practice, ENP (and EaP) also physically dislocate the border through visa regimes and readmission agreements, which put the policing burden on agencies in (e.g.) Ukraine who increasingly use profiling, risk modelling, databasing and analytical software exported by the EU. This research thus looks to investigate the ways in which EU border policy and practice have been dislocated by being exported to the neighbourhood and the relations that this creates between the Europeans and ‘EUropeans’

Research Contribution

This research project extends previous analyses of Schengen (e.g. Walters, 2006) to newer EU members and considers the de-territorialised bordering within Schengen and the neighbourhood as part of a border continuum that also includes the territorial frontier and the EaP. Treating the three research sites as part of a single (yet complex) border regime rather than as separate borders (or not seeing them as borders at all) links the EU’s internal and external bordering policy and practices, allowing for a newly comprehensive examination of contemporary EU bordering in CEE. Taking insights from different academic disciplines, this project re-imagines how and where borders are made and, ultimately ‘what’ and ‘how’ they are, yet remains ‘regionally particular’.

In order to deal with the complexity of multi-sited, extra-territorial bordering, this research project analyses EU border policy and practice through 3 facets of a specially designed ‘border prism’: (1) Socio-Political – how the conflicting or complementary needs of security and mobility are managed and how this gives rise to and/or depends on certain modes of power and the production of certain subjectivities; (2) Spatial – where and how borders are made as well as how these places are known and experienced; (3) Temporal – how history, collective memory and ideas of ‘progress’ particularly in relation to ‘transition’ and ‘Europeanness’ shape the border regime. The combination of these aspects of borders allows for consideration of the ‘Borderscape’ (Perrera, 2007) – the zone of practice and experience in which delocalised, fragmented borders are created and contested – and what this means for contemporary Europeans and the societies they live in. This project ‘operationalises’ the notion of the Borderscape through the ‘mobilisation’ of Michel Foucault’s (1980:194, cited in Bigo, 2007) ‘Dispositif of Security to create a Security-Mobility Dispositif comprising Data, Discourses, Practices, Expectations & Experiences, Architectures & Spaces, and Laws. The dispositif provides the framework for flexible, interpretive gathering of ‘data’ which can then be analysed through the aforementioned border prism. The project claims that notions of security and mobility remain crucial to extra-territorial borders, allowing for empirical research to be conducted at sites of their intersection. Furthermore, the project sees that socio-spatio-temporal analysis of the various facets of security-mobility can illuminate the CEE borderscape and enhance understanding of its contingencies and consequences.

Main Research Question

 How and where does the EU make its borders; why does it do so in the way(s) and locations that it does; how is it able to do so; and how does this relate to security, mobility, subjectivity and governance in the EU and its Eastern Neighbourhood?

 Sub Research Questions: Breaking Down Borders

  • Which actors are involved in EU bordermaking in CEE and how do they experience these processes and relations?
  • What relations of security-mobility exist between the various elements of the security-mobility dispositif with regard to EU bordering in CEE
  • What socio-political relations underpin and emerge from EU bordermaking in CEE, with particular regard to security and mobility
  • Where do EU borderings take place and what spatialities are involved in and emerge from the processes of bordering in CEE?
  • What are temporalities underpin and emerge from EU bordering in CEE and how do they relate to the socio-spatialities of EU bordering?


Research Methods: Interpretive Geopolitical Ethnography

Taking a multi-sited approach, this project aims to more comprehensively understand how the EU makes its borders, why it does so in the way it does, and what the consequences of this are. It examines the genesis, implementation and impact of the EU’s border policy and practice: internally in a newer Schengen state (Czech Republic), at the frontier between Poland and Ukraine (part of the territorial edge of Schengen and the EU) and externally with Ukraine in the context of ENP and EaP.

In order to investigate the broad questions posed by the literature review/ theoretical component of this research, the fieldwork component of this project focuses on the discourses, practices, and experiences of policy makers, border professionals and moving (and dwelling) people. In addition to deskwork and textwork (reading, analysing and interpreting) documents, the project uses the following fieldwork methods, which align it to interpretive methodology (Schwartz-Shea & Yanow, 2012).

–       Interviews with border users, practitioners and policymakers, as well as with NGOs and other organisations working with migrants or on border issues (broadly defined) in CZ, PL and UA.

–       (Participant) Observation of border practices, processes, places, practitioners and users in each case study location. Facilitated through contacts in International Organisations (for PL-UA and UA case studies) and with NGOs (CZ).

–       Representational Elicitation: Use of photographs, documentary and feature films, literature and reportage of borders and border crossings to facilitate broader and deeper responses from interviewees.

–       Photography: to complement other methods to examine and convey the portrayal, experience and materialisation of contemporary European border making and usage


Indicative Bibliography

Bigo, Didier (2002) “Security and Immigration: Toward a Critique of the Governmentality of Unease”, Alternatives, 27, Special Issue, pp.63-92

Bigo, Didier (2007), ‘Detention of Foreigners, States of Exception, and the Social Practices of Control of the Banopticon’, in Rajaram, Prem Kumar & Carl Grundy-Warr (2007), Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territories Edge, pp. 3-34.

C.A.S.E Collective (2007), Critical Approaches to Security in Europe: A Networked Manifesto, Security Dialogue 37(4): 443- 487

Chandler, David (2006), Empire in Denial: The Politics of State Building, Pluto Press, London

Cresswell, Tim (2010), ‘Towards a Politics of Mobility, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28: 17-31

EUBAM (2006), Annual Report 2005/06, European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, Odessa (UA)

Friedrichs, Joerg & Kratochwil, Friedrich (2009), ‘On Acting and Knowing: How Pragmatism Can Advance International Relations Research Methodology’ International Organisation, 63: 701-31

Green, Sarah (2009), ‘Lines, Traces and Tidemarks: Reflections on Forms of Boderli-ness, Eastbordnet Working Paper, []

Guild, Elspeth (2009), Security and Migration in the 21st Century, Cambridge: Polity 

Jansen, Stef (2009), ‘After the red passport: towards an anthropology of the everyday geopolitics of entrapment in the EU’s ‘immediate outside’’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 15: 815-832.

Jeandesboz, Julien (2007), ‘The genesis of the European neighbourhood policy: alternative narratives, bureaucratic competitions’, mimeo

Kurowska, Xymena & Tallis, Benjamin (2009), ‘EUBAM: Beyond border monitoring?’ European Foreign Affairs Review: 14 (1): 47-64  

Kurowska, Xymena & Tallis, Benjamin (2013), ‘Chiasmatic Crossings: A Reflexive Revisit to an Encounter in European Security Research’, Security Dialogue, (44): 73-89

Kuus, Merje (2004) ‘Europe’s eastern expansion and the re-inscription of otherness in east-central Europe’, Progress in Human Geography 28(4):472–489

Lapid, Yosef (2001), ‘Introduction. Identities, Borders, Orders: Nudging International Relations Theory in a New Direction’ in Albert, Matthias, David Jacobson & Yosif Lapid (eds), Identity, Borders, Orders: Rethinking International Relations Theory, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Perera, Suvendrini (2007), ‘A Pacific Zone? (In)Security, Sovereignty and Stories of the Pacific Borderscape’, in Rajaram, Prem Kumar & Carl Grundy-Warr (2007), Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territories Edge, pp. 201-227

Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine & Yanow, Dara (2012), Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, London: Routledge

Vaughan-Williams, Nick (2007), ‘The Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes: New Border Politics?’ Alternatives 32: 177–195

Walters, William (2002a), ‘Mapping Schengenland: Denaturalizing the border’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 20: 561-580

Walters, William (2006), ‘Border/Control’, European Journal of Social Theory 2006; 9; 187-

Zaiotti, Ruben (2007) ‘Of Friends and Fences: Europe’s Neighbourhood Policy and the ‘Gated Community Syndrome’’, Journal of European Integration, 29:2, 143 – 162

I was interviewed for the programme ‘Cizinci’ (Foreigners) on Cesky Rozhlas (Czech Radio).

The full programme (in Czech) is available here: (broadcast 20/07/2013 – in czech -title – ‘Zase pasy? Reforma Schengenu a politika hranic EU).

The comments that I make are part of the responses that I gave to a series of interesting and well-researched questions from the journalist Daniela Vrbova and which relate to my research on EU border making in Central & Eastern Europe

English versions of Interview responses are available on demand – email me at or if someone advises me of a site I can share them on without having to pay for an upgrade (as I would have to on wordpress!).