Intellectual approaches to abolishing borders?
September 23, 2013 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm undertaking research that deals with national identity and immigration issues and I'm really interested in any scholarly (or non-scholarly, really not super picky) works that critique and discuss alternatives to the modern nation-state paradigm.

I hope this isn't super broad! My research and field of concentration is all about migration/displacement/national identity/integration and I'm kind of struggling with my own personal thoughts about nationalism, nation-states, and borders. Instinctively I am critical of the entire concept of discrete nation-states but struggle to articulate alternatives or what could come after. I'm also interested in anything that discusses and critiques current immigration and refugee regimes, if they situate their critique within a broader criticism of nation-state-focused and border-legitimizing solutions (if that makes sense? I guess I don't want just "the US' current solution for irregular migration is inhuman because its effects on people are X and Y" but a more expansive critique).

I'm open to political theorists, philosophers (I know this is something Foucault touches on--if someone could point me to the specific works that are relevant to this, that would be great), social scientists, whoever, and I have access to an academic library and journal access, if that helps. I see a lot of related texts and I know of certain authors who delve into this subject but I need help narrowing down what I think could otherwise become a pretty long but maybe ineffective reading list.
posted by Papagayo to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Something to look into in philosophy would be cosmopolitanism. (Also see the bottom of that article for links to a few related topics in philosophy, which in turn can point you to more stuff on whatever angle you're interested in.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2013

Instinctively I am critical of the entire concept of discrete nation-states

Would you mind expanding on what you mean by "nation-state"? In my experience, it is often used of a fancy word for "country" but I think it properly has the more narrow definition of where the governmental entity of the state has the same geography as the ethnic/cultural entity of the people. For example, Japan is a nation-state while the United States is not. All states maintain their borders whether or not they are nation-states, so I wonder which definition you were operating under.

You may wish to check out Malesevic and Colomer.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2013

When I was doing similar research I came across the book Thinking the Unthinkable: The Immigration Myth Exposed, by British economist Nigel Harris. It's basically a critique of the the concept of immigration and borders, from a leftist/humanist perspective rather than a (more common, in my experience) libertarian one. I didn't ultimately finish the book (I was in thesis frenzy), but I found it really compelling. It sounds a lot like what you're looking for.

I would look in general towards anarchist and anarcho-sympathetic thinkers. This is totally their thing.
posted by threeants at 3:51 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is maybe a little weird because it's just one quirky perspective but maybe you'd like Suffled How it Gush?
posted by latkes at 6:32 PM on September 23, 2013

You might be interested by the works of market-anarchist writers. David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom might be a good place to start.
posted by HoraceH at 7:43 PM on September 23, 2013

You might find it interesting to think about the origins of the modern nation-state; recognising the constructed character of the categories we use to think with could help you start to think about alternatives. Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities has been very influential in helping historians unpick the processes by which different regions and peoples organised themselves into formalised political units during the course of the 19thC. The historian Linda Kerber also has a great piece on statelessness , and the exclusions generated by those processes of formalisation.
posted by melisande at 3:31 AM on September 24, 2013

I haven't read this book, but your question made me think of Ian Goldin's Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future. I went to a talk Goldin gave when the book was released and during the question and answer session he made it quite plain that he thought that tightening borders and discouraging immigration was a big mistake on the part of the UK and the US. Might be interesting reading.
posted by 9000condiments at 5:29 AM on September 24, 2013

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