Rethinking “natural boundaries”: the agency of the Rio Bravo / Grande

Authors: Xavier Oliveras-González*, El Colegio De La Frontera Norte
Topics: Geographic Thought, Political Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Borders; Non-human agency; Terrain;
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Border Studies has dominated an anthropocentric and absolutistic perspective on space, from which several border concepts and theories derive. One of such concepts was the natural boundaries or barriers, conceptualized as fixed, stable and immutable spatial components (like rivers, mountains, deserts, seas) used for bounding territories and marking them on the terrain and in cartography. On the other hand, the post-humanist (or new materialist) and relative / relational perspectives on space allows us to rethink those natural barriers as dynamic and mobile non-human actants, whose agency is unintentional, impartial and indifferent to the effects caused. For this reason, its action goes beyond human bordering, in some cases to expand it and in others to resist it, and the effects of which human actors (States, migrants, and transnational organized crime) take advantage of and counteract. In order to show it, the agency of the Rio Bravo / Grande and its movements (water flow, erosion, avulsion, lateral migration, etc.) has been analyzed (from a qualitative methodology) in relation to the US-Mexico bordering process. Three main actions are identified: a) hindering illegal / illicit human mobility, whose most tragic result is the disappearance and drowning of migrants; b) altering the boundary and border infrastructure; and c) hindering human border security activities.

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