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First Meets Third: Analyzing Inequality along the US-Mexico and South Africa-Lesotho borders

David Coplan


The literature of the US-Mexico borderlands constitutes a cross-disciplinary theoretical platform for border studies as a field. In border studies elsewhere, however, very few scholars have carried their investigations beyond their “own” chosen borderland. Viewing the matter from the margin of Africa’s deepest South, however, the centrality of the US southwest provides an unavoidable comparative challenge that must be faced. Still, a comparative analysis of international borderlands as separate in space and situation as US-Mexico and South Africa-Lesotho may appear to be fetched from far too far. In response the paper bases its argument on the reality that a crucial analytical variable, inequity, is present in both cases: The US-Mexico and SA-Lesotho borders are two of the only borders in the world where vastly different levels of development meet. If, hinged on this variable, the door to comparison of two such distant and different borderlands can be opened, then quite possibly some generalisations, both small and large, might be admitted into border theory. This paper marks an initial attempt to both advance African border theory at the ethnological level, and to link border studies in Africa with the established and critical heartland of border studies.

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