International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition): Borderlands

Elsevier, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition), 2020, Pages 373-379
Doris Wastl-Walter

Borderlands exist when two or more political, economic, and social systems—usually nation states—meet. All cross-border relations and activities are framed by international or binational treaties. The border can be a barrier, hindering and controlling cross-border activities and contacts. Borderlands can be spaces where migration and secuturization efforts often meet and collide and formal and informal precarious camps often emerge where migrants and refugees are detained. But equally daily life in the borderlands depends crucially upon the permeability of borders permitting border peoples to develop specific cross-border economic, social, and cultural cross-border activities. A special setting for such opportunities exists when there is an ethnic minority that speaks the language and is familiar with the culture of the other side. Borderlands with permeable borders are used by the local population as an integrated region for their everyday activities where they choose freely between the two nations for specific purposes. In this way, they develop an identity as border people, which can be stronger and more persistent than national identities. Borderlands are also functional spaces, where the asymmetries and differences between the neighboring states can be used for the benefit of at least one side.