Rethinking borders: book examines complex border systems

Rethinking borders: book examines complex border systems

Interview with Dr Christian Wille

Borders are more than just lines on a map. They are complex assemblages of discourses, practices, objects, bodies and knowledge. This approach of complexity-oriented border research is presented in the new book “Border Complexities and Logics of Dis/Order” by Dr Christian Wille and other researchers from Luxembourg, Germany and France.

In an interview with co-editor Christian Wille, we find out what readers can expect in this book, how he understands complexity-orientated border research and how he managed to gain 13 contributors for the book project.

Mr. Wille, together with Carolin Leutloff-Grandits and other colleagues, you have edited a book on border complexities and dis/orders. What can readers expect?

In total, we are five researchers from Luxembourg, Germany, and France who are editing this first of two volumes. The anthology is an attempt to consolidate a still young trend in interdisciplinary thinking and analyzing of borders. Readers can, therefore, expect a theoretical-conceptual but also empirical discussion of borders, which we extend into what we call border complexities.

What do you mean by complexity-oriented border studies?

In border studies, it has been said for several years that borders are complex. However, border scholars hardly say what exactly is meant by this and what consequences for research that implies. This is where this volume comes in and counters the inflationary use of the complexity notion with well-founded ideas. On the one hand, we emphasize that borders are not complex structures per se, but that the complexity orientation is a specific and quite promising way of approaching them. On the other hand, we apply the basic principle of the border – to order the world – and link it to complexity thinking. Here, we are guided by the idea that a border is more than the sum of its parts – or, in analytical terms, that a border cannot be explained by its parts, but by the interplay of its parts.

And what does this mean regarding border research?

We build on the progressive trends of current research, which understand borders as powerful structures of discourses, practices, objects, bodies, knowledge, etc. While such elements have tended to be studied in isolation from each other, the complexity perspective emphasizes the interplay of these elements and dimensions. We qualify it complex because it gives rise to dis/orders and thus border(ing)s that are to be considered emergent properties of complex structures. For this special view on borders, we introduce border complexities – a concept that understands borders as relational structures and focuses on the interaction of their elements as well as on the resulting dis/orders and borderings.

That all sounds very abstract. How did you find companions for the book project?

We recommend reading our anthology precisely because it is becoming more and more unusual in academia to provide adequate resources for theoretical and conceptual reflection. It also contains case studies that reconstruct the emergence and effects of dis/orders, for example, in European border regions or in the EU and US migration regimes. We thank the 13 authors for embarking on this book project – some of whom we have been working with since 2019. They were part of the international cooperation project “Border Complexities”, in which the idea of this anthology was born. This volume and the one soon to follow present the project results and thus make a substantial contribution to the recent complexity shift in border studies.

Here, we are guided by the idea that a border is more than the sum of its parts – or, in analytical terms, that a border cannot be explained by its parts, but by the interplay of its parts.

Dr. Christian Wille , Co-editor

The book “Border Complexities and Logics of Dis/Order”, edited by Dr Christian Wille, PD Dr Carolin Leutloff-Grandits, Prof Dr Falk Bretschneider, Prof Sylvie Grimm-Hamen and Prof Dr Hedwig Wagner, is the 7th volume in the series Border Studies. Cultures, Spaces, Orders and will be published in June 2024. It is an important contribution to border research and offers a new look at borders as complex structures that organise the world and create dis/orders.