Call for Papers: Fences, Walls and Borders: State of Insecurity?

Date(s) of Conference:

May 19-20, 2011


Montreal, Quebec, Canada


In the 1990s, when the talk was of globalization and peace dividends, walls, as such, seemed to be becoming redundant. Analysts observed the declining importance of the border and its growing irrelevance; indeed, some foresaw its disappearance and the advent of a borderless world. The globalization literature posited a growing challenge to the state-centred world order which would wipe away the perimeters of the state. Borders were believed to be artefacts of an old, and rapidly disappearing world order, and would surely be seen as such by states and state governments. Nevertheless, some 26,000 kilometres of new political borders have been established since 1991 and states have declared their intention to dig in behind fences, barriers and built structures. Increasingly, these built structures include the means for forestalling and even refusing entry to migrants and goods. The post-Cold War and post-9/11 periods have seen the rise of border walls, symbols of separation which seemed to be on the way out in the wake of decolonization, and were believed to be entirely finished and done with after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a symbol for the end of the Cold War. While some saw in this “the end of history” or even “the end of geography”, the truth is that no such borderless world materialized. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not mean the end of security arrangements, and security infrastructures like fortified borders, even in a highly globalized world. Instead it signalled the beginning of a new era of security arrangements focusing on borders and borderlines. Indeed, some twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall, this conference proposes to raise the issue and to analyze the factors that have led to the resurgence of the fences and walls in a borderless world, if not in fact at least in discourse. Its goal is to conduct a broad analysis of the role, functions of border fences and walls in the 21st century, and the relationship between new security agendas and new forms of border management and practice. It will focus on both inter-state and inter-national walls. Clearly, infra-national walls are also becoming more common, but they cannot be classified in the same category, for they differ in purpose, applicable law, and political function. The conference also intends to explore the issue of how the return of the border fences and walls as a political tool may be symptomatic of a new era in international relations. Hence, we favour a multidisciplinary approach to problems that could include the recurrence and/or decline of the wall in International Relations; wall discourses, legal approaches to the wall; the “ wall industry”, bypath strategies and “No man’s lands”; and the sociology of border walls and borderlands, as well as their symbolism, their role, objectives and efficiency.

In context of developing these themes, the aim of the conference is also to examine case studies that shed light on both the systemic factors explaining the building of border fences and walls and the necessity to consider specific factors pertaining to each walls. Graduate students are especially invited to submit paper proposal.

Other Themes

Theme 1. Border fences and border walls in International Relations: Return or decline? Globalizing discourse and the return of borders Global hypothesis on the return of the wall in International Relations Case studies on the return of the wall in International Relations

Theme 2. Border fences, walls and identities Construction of national and local identities Theoretical limology, walls and epistemology Anthropological approaches to border walls and fences Sociology of the walls/fences and their borderlands

Theme 3. Legal aspects of the walls Separation and legitimation Border walls: failure or success? International, national and local Legal aspects: Human rights and the wall, norms and the wall

Theme 4. Impacts of the walls Economical impacts Bypass strategies Social and environmental impacts Security industry and building border fences & walls

Call for Papers:

Deadline for abstract submission: October 15th, 2010

Proposal: please include the following information (300 words) • Name of authors/contributors • Institutional affiliations, titles • Contact: telephone, fax, email, mailing address • Title of the paper • Abstract: Subject, empirical frame, analytical approach, theme Languages: Proposals can be submitted in French and English.

Contact Information:

Send your proposals via email in Word format to Élisabeth Vallet at UQAM:


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