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A Functional Approach to Boundaries in the Context of Environmental Issues

Barbara Morehouse


In 1989, the Soviet Union fractured into its constituent republics. In the space of a very short time, the existing maps of the world became obsolete, and a whole new political-geographical perspective had to be developed. Though monumental in its implications, such a radical change in the geography of world politics is not as rare as some would believe. An excursion into the boundary politics of any geographical area reveals that boundaries do not exist as separate and independent entities, but persist only to the extent that they are reinforced through social discourse and practice.

From this perspective, boundaries constitute important inputs to, and outcomes of, relations of power regarding territory and resources (see Foucault 1982 for a discussion the dynamics of power relations; see Taylor 1994 and Thomas 1994 for discussions of nation-state boundaries as manifestations of power). Thus, as border scholars are well aware, far from being drawn in indelible ink, boundaries are dynamic in time and space and are, in the last analysis, one of the primary ways in which we construct and reinforce geographies of difference. Because they are intimately connected with the exercise of power - and resistance - boundaries not only reflect the outcome of political contests but by their very existence stand ready to serve as important inputs to subsequent contests over the location, size and configuration of the defined and bounded space.

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