Let us begin anew, if only to unfold the argument one last time. “It is through
the prevention of motion that space enters history,” argues Reviel Netz in the
opening to Barbed Wire.
Deﬁne, on the two- dimensional surface of the earth, lines across which
motion is to be prevented, and you have one of the key themes of history.
With a closed line (i.e., a curve enclosing a ﬁgure), and the prevention of
motion from outside the line to its inside, you derive the idea of property.
With the same line, and the prevention of motion from inside to outside,
you derive the idea of prison. With an open line (i.e., a curve that does
not enclose a ﬁgure), and the prevention of motion in either direction, you
derive the idea of border. Properties, prisons, borders: it is through the
prevention of motion that space enters history.1
Motion, Netz further argues, can be prevented along three main technologi-
cal lines: absolute material barriers, obstacles that make movement difﬁcult
and thus undesirable, or “purely symbolic deﬁnitions of limits” such as “a
yellow line painted on the pavement.” All, he claims, rely “on the potential
presence of force (where there is a yellow line, there are usually also police
nearby).”2 While Netz is undoubtedly right in claiming that force is often in-
volved in the regulation of movement, he might be too hasty in this sweeping
attachment of police to yellow lines (that is, of violence to symbolic systems of