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International political borders have historically performed one overriding function: the delimitation of a state’s territorial jurisdiction, but today they are sites of intense security scrutiny and law enforcement. Traditionally they were created to secure peace through territorial independence of political units. Today borders face new pressures from heightened human mobility, economic interdependence (legal and illicit), and perceived challenges from a host of nonstate threats. Research has only begun to reveal what some of these changes mean for the governance of interstate borders. The problems surrounding international borders today go well-beyond traditional delineation and delimitation. These problems call for active forms of governance to manage human mobility and interdependence. However, human rights norms sometimes rest uneasily alongside unilateral border governance. A research agenda which documents and explains new border developments, and critically assesses emerging rules and practices in light of international human rights, is an essential direction for international studies research.


Migration, immigration, border crossing, border security, international politics, interstate relations, refugees, refugee law, national security, political boundaries, boundary delineation, border control, border walls, border fences, human rights

Publication Title

International Studies Review

Publication Citation

International Studies Review (forthcoming 2019).