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Throughout history, the fundamental human aspiration to move freely and cross boundaries has coexisted with the fundamental human yearning for the reassurance provided by secure borders.Human beings have migrated throughout history, and often these well-travelled people later turn their energies towards drawing borders. The drawing of borders is a psychological and cultural phenomenon, too.
People’s identity and sense of belonging and difference depend on having a sense of borders.
The drawing of borders is a precondition for human cognition.
In 1909, the remarkable German sociologist Georg Simmel gave us an eloquent reminder of the human impulse to draw borders: ‘Only to humanity, in contrast to nature, has the right to connect and separate been granted, and in the distinctive manner that one of these activities is always the presupposition of the other.’ In his essay ‘Bridge and Door’, Simmel highlighted the surprisingly intimate relationship between separation and connection.
He wrote that ‘we can only sense those things to be related which we have previously somehow isolated from one another; things must first be separated from one another in order to be together’.
Thinkers frequently highlight the arbitrary and fluid nature of borders.
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Numerous social theorists insist that borders have become more porous.
My view is that contemporary societies, and especially their cultural and political elites, find it difficult to gain meaning from symbolic borders.
Academic literature and much social commentary now implicitly question the moral status and even the legitimacy of borders.
Within Europe, and also within many national communities, borders are experienced differentially.
Well-off, secure, sophisticated travellers perceive of border controls, like American immigration procedures, as an annoyance and an unnecessary obstacle in their lives.