Do borders still define the limits of states? How do communities change when a border is put between them? Is the physical border more important than the conceptual boundary? In recent times, the question of borders in the Middle East has assumed an importance unknown since the collapse of the Ottoman empire. In this fresh examination of the issue, Inga Brandell draws together a variety of disciplinary approaches, and takes the classic debates forward into the 21st century. Casting its net wide from the Anatolian plateau to the mountains of Cyprus, State Frontiers brings a number of key issues to light. Brandell brings to our attention the idea of 'straddling' populations, looking at the Syrian-Lebanese business community which has historically shuttled across the border between the two countries as a result of civil war in one and successive economic diktats in the other. Another case study examines the lived experience of borders in Cyprus, detailing not only the physical but also the mental and cultural effects of separation. The usefulness of the discourse of borders is highlighted by looking at the disjunction between Turkish politicians' rhetoric of border inviolability and the Turkish army's regular violation of the South Eastern border with Iraq. Brandell provides rich empirical illumination of the psychological function of borders in creating (and keeping out) an imagined 'other'. She also explores practical dimensions of borders in the context of boundary transgressing resources such as water. Brandell offers important new theoretical insights, discussing the validity of the assumptions which underlie border studies. In the Middle East, borders are widely believed to be arbitrary and ultimately external to the organic development of societies. In its multifaceted portrayal of border life, State Frontiers restores the balance and contributes towards a more sophisticated understanding of these issues.
Borders and Boundaries in the Middle East