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The Wall, the Fence, and the Gate: Reflexive Metaphors along the Canada–US Border

Heather N. Nicol


The reading of "common legacy" has recently developed as the dominant discourse defining Canada–US relations throughout the 20th century. It supports the politically expedient perception that the "interconnected" status of the Canada–US border is a historical fact. Yet viewed historically, this is not so clear. Historical narratives tell two equally compelling stories, one of facilitation and cooperation along the Canada–US border, and the other of one of resistance to a "borderless" North America.
This paper traces the story of the border from a Canadian perspective. It argues that there is a strong perceptual component and reflexivity in Canada–US relations, even those now brokered through common security arrangements. Such perceptions are linked to national border-building discourses and mobilized through popularized as well as formal geopolitical discourses: that is to say via newspapers, political cartoons as well as formal political texts and agreements. Historically such images and discourses have emphasized the differences, as well as commonalities, along the line. The result has been a significant degree of reflexivity, and this has created a somewhat unique context for North American cooperation.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229