Border Walls and Borderlands. Security, Environment and Resistance

International conference organized by the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at University of Quebec in Montreal
Oct. 20-21, 2022 – Montréal, Québec, Canada

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

Border barriers are now heavily 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 essential 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. Furthermore, borders are redefined by ever-evolving technologies, while biotechnologies – and AI – are becoming central to border security apparatus.

Often represented as a way to gain security, border walls also rewrite daily life in the borderlands, redefining the surroundings and lives of borderland communities, from economic and cultural relations to the environment and wildlife. The hardening of borders have become a normalized response to insecurity and uncertainties in the contemporary world. We only need to look at how quickly states closed their borders to all movements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Border walls redefine borderlines around the world, fitting, filtering and sealing what used to be partially porous and soft borders. If globalization is blurring borders, walls emphasize them, and borderlands are consequently impacted and redefined, while also sometimes transforming into spaces of resistance. 

Bringing together scholars, students, researchers and practitioners from around the world, this conference aims to reflect on border walls through various standpoint points, from their motivations to their consequences, from their local to global impacts.