Towards a post-humanistic understanding of borders

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Md Azmeary Ferdoush, Jussi Laine
Chairs: Jussi Laine


Borders have acquired a central position in the social and political transformation of the world and in the daily life of many people. The unbundling and spreading of borders have led some scholars to claim that borders are now virtually everywhere. The widening and multiplication of bordering practices that appear fluid and ubiquitous, question the relevance of geographical perspectives. In addition, the proliferation of border research throughout an array of scholarly fields and a wide range of approaches challenges the role of political geography in understanding borders not as territorial lines and political institutions, but as socio-cultural practices and discourses.

While it is almost impossible to bring the vast tradition of border studies under certain categories, in broad strokes, anthropogenic approaches suggest that we have taken our fate into our own hands and assume that non-human agents, both living and non-living, are given motion by human agency. Such a notion leaves us with a partial capacity to understand borders and bordering (Nail 2019). The objective of the session is to move away from a static understanding of borders that have dominated the recent geopolitical discourse of bordering and ordering. We seek to do so by problematizing the purely anthropogenic perspectives on border(ing)s and broaden our horizon by bringing in the agency of non-human actors into our conceptualization. Such inclusion underpinning linkages between human and non-human agencies serves as our stepping-stone for this session and allows to move towards a post-humanistic conceptualization of borders. An approach that would be premised on an understanding that we are not in control of everything.

The current pandemic with Covid-19 offers a suitable illustration. It is undeniable that the virus has its own agency which compelled us to drastically re-organize borders, bordering, and human movements. In this instance, the drastic closing down of borders almost all over the world, human immobility, re-shuffling of motions all stem from a non-human agency (the virus) but are executed and managed by human agencies (grounding down flights, temporary lockdowns, declaration of emergency and so forth). At the same time, such agencies are used to (re)politicize the circulation of bodies by stopping migrants, temporarily suspending asylum applications, locking down camps, and above all, scapegoating motion.
Drawing from the emerging scholarship on borders and motion, we argue that a reading of borders calls for an understanding of motion that is created by both human and non-human agencies (e.g. Konrad, 2015; Nail 2015, 2016).
Thus, through a lens of motion, we ask, where then borders and borderings are located? What tools can geographers use to capture motions, and what is the potential of such a lens to further our understanding of borders?

Based on such ideas, the session welcomes papers that include topics mentioned below but certainly not limited to these.
• Theorizing/conceptualizing motion
• Everyday impacts/manifestations of borders in motion
• Alternative spatial representations of dynamic border(ing) processes and phenomena
• Changes in geographical imagination towards motion
• Post-humanistic /-anthropogenic understanding of borders
• The way non-human agencies affect borders and bordering
• The interaction of human and non-human agencies in circulating motion
• The (geo)politics of kinetics
• Interrelation between motion, circulation, and status (e.g. people on the move, borders, and creation of categories like
(non)citizen, (il)legal, desirable, undesirable)

Note that none of us plan to attend the meeting in-person, thus this is organized as a Virtual Session. Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by October 19, 2020 to both Azmeary ( and Jussi ( ). Feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Konrad, V. (2015) Toward a theory of borders in motion. Journal of Borderlands Studies. 30 (1), Pp. 1-17.
Nail, T. (2016). Theory of the border. Oxford University Press, London.
Nail, T. (2015). The figure of the migrant. Stanford University Press, California.
Nail, T. (2019). Kinopolitics: Borders in motion. In Braidotti, R. and Bignall, S. eds. Posthuman ecologies: Complexity and process after Deleuze. Rowman and Littlefield, New York. Pp. 183-203.


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