Inga Brandell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at Sodertorn University College and a Coordinator of the project ‘Borders, boundaries and transgression’ at Uppsala University.
BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Do borders always define the limits of states? How do communities change when a border is put between them? Is the physical border more important than the conceptual boundary? In recent times, the question of borders in the Middle East has assumed an importance unknown since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In this fresh examination of the issue, Inga Brandell draws together a variety of disciplinary approaches, and takes the classic debates forward into the twenty first century. The shifting reality and meaning of the state frontier is approached through sources ranging from contemporary and historical maps, national encyclopedias, interviews with diplomats, traders and business people, to Arab and Turkish newspapers, foreign policy declarations and statistics.
Casting its net wide from the Anatolian plateau to the mountains of Cyprus, State Frontiers brings a number of key issues to light. The idea of ‘straddling’ populations is brought to our attention in a study of the Syrian-Lebanese business community which has historically shuttled across the border between the two countries according to the fluctuations of civil war in one and successive economic diktats in the other. Are these straddling phenomena the product of a shared Ottoman past, or globalisation? Another case study examines the lived experience of borders in Cyprus, detailing not only the physical but also the mental and cultural effects of separation. The usefulness of the border as an idea is highlighted by looking at the disjunction between Turkish politicians’ rhetoric of bottler inviolability and the Turkish army’s regular violation of the South Eastern border with Iraq. Rich empirical illumination is provided of the political function of borders in creating (and keeping out) an imagined other’. The ‘other’ is analysed further with reference to the debate started by Edward Said’s Orientalism.
Brandell offers important new theoretical insights, discussing the validity of the assumptions which underlie border studies and the questions as well as the results brought by a focus on the Middle East. In the region, borders are widely believed to be arbitrary and ultimately external to the development of societies. In its multifaceted portrayal of border life, State Frontiers restores the balance and contributes towards a more sophisticated understanding of these issues.
Subtitle: BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Author: INGA BRANDELL