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Borders and Walls

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 pundits rejoiced in the dawn of a new era, a world without walls. Instead, walls now permeate our world, with at least 70 nation-states constructing them. Why, at a global level, are nation-states increasingly constructing walls to secure borders? Why is violence at borders escalating? What are the impacts of border securitization on the lives of border residents? And, how should we understand the simultaneous opening of borders to trade and closing of borders to migrants?

The class "Borders and Walls " takes border zones and issues crucial to understanding them both as its field site and point of comparative analysis.

Inside the Classroom 

This course investigates issues commonplace to zones of contact such as cultural hybridization as well as the role of the state in constructing and codifying notions of citizenship and sovereignty at international (and in some cases interior) boundaries. By looking at borders from a comparative ethnographic perspective, the course contextualizes issues faced by border residents at a global level as nation-states increasingly securitize borders. A special focus of the class will be on culture, politics and securitization on the U.S. Mexico border.

Outside the Classroom

Through field visits to the U.S. Mexico border in South Texas (January) and Ireland (March), you will witness firsthand how border walls cut through communities, private property, national and state wildlife preserves, and even a university campus. In Texas, you will walk through areas where the Department of Homeland Security currently plans to extend (or has recently built new sections of) the border wall, including through a preserve administered by the North American Butterfly Association. You will visit the Border Studies Archive at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and search their Border Walls and Border Security Collection. You might have opportunity to interview and discuss their perspectives with local journalists, business people, activists, professors, and border patrol officials. You might have the opportunity to visit a detention center and observe areas that undocumented migrants traverse as they seek to enter the United States. Finally, you will explore how border securitization has impacted the everyday lives of local residents who have transborder familial, economic and cultural ties.

Research and Capstone Project

Based on your field visits (U.S. borderlands, Ireland) and class work, you will have several options for producing group projects, including podcasts, photo-essays, reports, and/or exhibits. These projects will become part of a website that the class will create on global borders. Projects might focus on the experiences of a particular individual (a migrant, border business person, activist, etc), the construction of border walls in different parts of the world, the fall of the Berlin Wall, parks and wildlife on borders, migrant routes, and/or transborder cultural expressions.

View the 2020–21 Capstone Project: A story of migration, borders, and walls around the world as investigated by the members of the University of Richmond SSIR

About ANTH 279

ANTH 279 has no prerequisites and can count towards major or minor requirements in Sociology.