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The rise of linear borders in world politics

Goettlich, Kerry (2018) The rise of linear borders in world politics. European Journal of International Relations. ISSN 1354-0661

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1354066118760991


This article argues that the dominance of precise, linear borders as an ideal in the demarcation of territory is an outcome of a relatively recent and ongoing historical process, and that this process has had important effects on international politics since circa 1900. Existing accounts of the origins of territorial sovereignty are in wide disagreement largely because they fail to specify the relationship between territory and borders, often conflating the two concepts. I outline a history of the linearization of borders, which is separate from that of territorial sovereignty, having a very different timeline and featuring different actors, and offer an explanation for the dominance of this universalizing system of managing and demarcating space, based on the concept of rationalization. Finally, I describe two broad ways in which linearizing borders has affected international politics: by making space divisible in new ways; and underpinning hierarchies by altering the distribution of geographical knowledge resources.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 13:27
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:26

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