HomeBorders in the Americas – Integration, Security and Migrations

Borders in the Americas – Integration, Security and Migrations

Frontières dans les Amériques : intégration, sécurité et migrations

Fronteras en las Américas – Integración, Seguridad and Migraciones

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Published on Friday, July 24, 2020 by Céline Guilleux


In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, many analysts and experts argued that the world had reached the “end of history” [Fukuyama, 1992] and that regional and local organizations and free trade agreements (among which the European Union appeared to be a model of integration) signaled the emergence of a world without borders. Yet, thirty years later, the reality seems to be altogether different. Today, it is clear that “borders are back”. Whether these borders are challenged, violated, transcended, consolidated, or integrated, they remain necessarily at the heart of the political debate. This symposium will focus on a specific geographic area: the Americas.


Editors in chief

  • Françoise Martinez,
  • Isabelle Vagnoux

Guest editors

  • Anne-Laure Amilhat-Szary,
  • Pierre-Alexandre Beylier,
  • Gregory Benedetti,
  • Eric Tabuteau


In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, many analysts and experts argued that the world had reached the “end of history” [Fukuyama, 1992] and that regional and local organizations and free trade agreements (among which the European Union appeared to be a model of integration) signaled the emergence of a world without borders. Yet, thirty years later, the reality seems to be altogether different. Today, it is clear that “borders are back” [Amilhat Szary, 2006], [Foucher, 2016], [Ferguson, 2017]. One of the most telling symbols is the multiplication of “border walls”, the number of which increased from fifteen in 1989, to more than sixty in 2016 [Vallet, 2016]. These walls are the manifestation of a “qualitative transformation” of borders [Podescu, 2011] and the symbols of a “rebordering phenomenon” [Ibid, 3], [Van Houtoum, 2004]. However, their return appears under different forms, whether as a concrete consolidation, or an intensification of control and surveillance activities. Conversely, these borders may also be challenged by separatist and other resistance movements, as the most recent examples of Catalonia and Kurdistan demonstrate. What is new is the fact that these transformations have granted border a new function of “sorting out fluxes”, through “differentiated treatments” [Amilhat-Szary, 2015].

Whether these borders are challenged, violated, transcended, consolidated, or integrated, they remain necessarily at the heart of the political debate. This symposium – which is the first of a series entitled “Borders, spaces, and power(s)” – will focus on a specific geographic area: the Americas. Because the Americas were colonized by European powers, they all share the specificity of having been shaped in order to “organize” the New World [Podescu, 2011, 8]. To be more precise, they combine in a surprising way two forms of territorial appropriation: one that derives from a logic of zonal colonizing conquest (frontier), the other from a desire of worldwide networking in a Western perspective of space (boundary) [Perrier Bruslé, 2007].  They convey an exogenous dimension, which can have implications for the different spaces and communities that are being crossed by these borders, whether it be in terms of legitimacy or identity. Beyond their colonial past, the Americas have shared another common point since the 1990s: as part of the globalization process, they have set up trade agreements like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in North America or Mercosur in South America, in order to foster better regional integration. These agreements have put forward a particular vision of the border concept, a border which appears more as a “resource” than a “stigma” [Amilhat-Szary, 2015, 85]. At a local level, people involved have a different point of view about the possibility to enhance the peripheral territories where they live and develop innovative para-diplomatic initiatives. On the American continent, where some regions were hit by recurring border conflicts in the 19th century, and where some borders are still contested today (especially in Central America), integration has been a “factor of stabilization” [Medina, 2009, 41] without erasing internal geopolitical tensions which sometimes go beyond the border, endangering the continental stability. 

Nevertheless, the 9/11 attacks – and international terrorism overall, which had existed in Latin America since the Buenos Aires attacks in the 1880s – have redefined the role of borders, contributing to their “refunctionalization”. The resurgence of a Fortress America [Alden, 2008], [Andreas, 2003], [Noble, 2004] has been extensively documented regarding the United States, but the phenomenon of “rebordering” also concerns Latin American borders, yet in a more ambivalent way, since they are caught in a contradictory process of “dismantling and construction” [Machado, De Oliveira, 2009, 19]. As some countries have responded to terrorism by closing their borders, others, especially in Central America, have taken a different path toward opening borders [Medina, 2009, 138]. In this region, one observes an uncommon policy which reinterprets the accepted trends in terms of regulation of borders. For instance, one can think of the unprecedented development of security devices on the Brazilian borders, without questioning the growth of international exchanges, whether they be legal or illegal (smuggling, narco-trafficking…) [Dorfman, 2014], [Dorfman et al, 2017].

This issue of IdeAs will focus on the two apparently antithetical phenomena of integration and border security, particularly through their impact on migrations.

  • Papers can deal with the policies that have been put in place since 2001, especially with regards to the phenomenon of rebordering which is at stake on a global level. How do countries manage their border to address this new context? Submissions can concentrate both on the mechanisms themselves and on their implications for cross-border relations. Case studies and comparative approaches will be particularly welcomed, especially when they try to go beyond regional syntheses and bridge the gap between the two Americas … [Brunet-Jailly, 2007], [Konrad et al, 2008].
  • Submissions can also analyze how American borders evolve, from an opening process to a closing one, “functionalizing and dysfunctionalizing” [Foucher, 1991], [Pradeau, 1994, 16-17] in order to study these dynamics both on a small scale and a large scale. Historical approaches, which renew the question of territorialized border conflict and multiply the reading scales, demonstrating efforts to make national and contradictory nationalist narratives evolve, will also be appreciated [Parodi Revoredo et al, 2014].
  • Papers can also explore the issue of continental integration within NAFTA and MERCOSUR, but also at the level of both Americas (UNASUR). How can we evaluate these regional blocs which presented themselves as models in the 1990s? How do the member countries perceive their relations along the borders in this context? How do integration and rebordering coexist for that matter? What are the resistance movements against these processes, how do they express themselves politically and at which levels?
  • A cross-examination of border crossing and an evaluation of their growing human costs will also be welcomed [De Leon et al, 2015]. The goal will be to understand intracontinental fluxes, which are linked with working mobility, but also how the Americas integrate their migratory strategies with an increasing number of people who try to reach North America from Africa, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, using the same slave itineraries, before embarking on longer and more dangerous paths toward the North [Tapia Ladino, 2014].
  • Papers dealing with the Canada/US border and with borders in South America will be given the priority as well as papers about border processes and economic issues.

Like the "Borders in the Americas" conference, this issue of IdeAs is intended to be both transdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary, drawing on geography, history, political science, international relations, sociology, anthropology and addressing the Americas in their entirety. Authors are also encouraged to adopt multidisciplinary and comparative methodologies.

Submission guidelines

Deadline: September 15, 2020.

The submission is to consist of 5 key-words, a 300-word abstract of the paper; a 100-word biographical statement will also be included. Submissions are to be sent at the following addresses: pierre-alexandre.beylier@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr, fmartinez02@univ-paris8.fr, isabelle.vagnoux@univ-amu.fr  


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  • Tuesday, September 15, 2020


  • frontière, Amériques, intégration, migration


  • Charlotte Le Merdy
    courriel : gt-recherche [at] institutdesameriques [dot] fr

Information source

  • Charlotte Le Merdy
    courriel : gt-recherche [at] institutdesameriques [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Borders in the Americas – Integration, Security and Migrations », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 24, 2020, https://calenda.org/792481

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