Research Matters

Research Matters


A new book coauthored by Alexander Diener, assistant professor of geography at KU, argues that borders are political, social, environmental and economic forces that shape our lives.

Episode #115

2 minutes (2.5 MB) | Download mp3


Researcher’s new book about borders aims for a wide audience. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters.

A border is much more than a line drawn on a map. According to Alexander Diener, assistant professor of geography at the University of Kansas, borders are political, social, environmental and economic forces that shape our lives.

Diener: Human beings experience borders on a daily basis. If you shut the door to your room, that represents the use of a border to block out sound, or to restrict access to people. In general, most people cross a variety of municipal boundaries every day. On a broader scale, you have international borders that profoundly affect the way we live our lives.

Denier recently co-authored “Borders: A Very Short Introduction” with Joshua Hagen of Marshall University.  According to the KU reserarcher, permeability is one of the most interesting aspects of contemporary international borders.

Diener: Increasingly, with transnational economics, permeability of borders is a must. But coupled with that, you have issues of terrorism, illegal migration, and these kind of things that make people want to make borders less permeable. The key for leaders is to try and find a way to effectively do both. It is incumbent upon academics to ascertain if such efforts are being carried out in an ethical manner that is helpful both for those within a given state and also for those who want to cross borders and contribute.

Diener argued against the idea that a future world may lack borders, and said that borders might instead grow in importance to humanity.

Diener: There is a thesis that we’re evolving toward a borderless world. But a lot of political geographers and international relations experts will take issue with that. To my mind, borders are part of our lives; they have been, and they will continue to be. But they are transforming. You can look at contingent sovereignties. Or indigenous sovereignties, which are radically altering the way borders function. Some countries have cordoned off spaces within their own territory to facilitate foreign companies having tax-free labor or providing unique legal regimes for first-peoples. That’s a very different approach to sovereignty and borders than has predominated throughout history.

For more on borders, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I’m Brendan Lynch.

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Researcher’s new book about borders aims for a wide audience

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