Fog and dirt, violence and magic have surrounded the tracing and institu-
tion of borders since late antiquity. Sources from around the world tell us
wonderful and frightening stories about the tracing of demarcation lines
between the sacred and the profane, good and evil, private and public, inside
and outside. From the liminal experiences of ritual societies to the delimita-
tion of land as private property, from the fratricide of Remus by Romulus at
the mythological foundation of Rome to the expansion of the imperial limes,
these stories speak of the productive power of the border—of the strategic
role it plays in the fabrication of the world. They also convey, in a glimpse, an
idea of the deep heterogeneity of the semantic field of the border, of its
complex symbolic and material implications. The modern cartographical
representation and institutional arrangement of the border as a line—first in
Europe and then globalized through the whirlwind of colonialism, imperial-
ism, and anticolonial struggles—has somehow obscured this complexity
and led us to consider the border as literally marginal. Today, we are wit-
nessing a deep change in this regard. As many scholars have noted, the
border has inscribed itself at the center of contemporary experience. We are
confronted not only with a multiplication of different types of borders but
also with the reemergence of the deep heterogeneity of the semantic field of
the border. Symbolic, linguistic, cultural, and urban boundaries are no
longer articulated in fixed ways by the geopolitical border. Rather, they
overlap, connect, and disconnect in often unpredictable ways, contributing
to shaping new forms of domination and exploitation.
Violence undeniably shapes lives and relations that are played out on and
across borders worldwide. Think of the often unreported deaths of migrants
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