Barangolás a társadalomtudományi kutatás világában
2019. október 23. szerda - KÖZTÁRSASÁG KIKIÁLTÁSA, Gyöngyi

2010. december 09. csütörtök, 23:05
Kopper Ákos




Paper presented at the conference:


 October 2010. Pécs.


                                                                                              Ákos KOPPER



The typical imaginary that we associate with borders is a fence, a wall such as the wall of Hadrian in Britain, or a group of border guards on patrol. Ferguson and Gupta observed that the representation of space in social sciences is dominated by images of: break, rupture, and disjunction separating one political entity from another (Gupta and Ferguson 1997: 34). Standard political maps that are in use (see Fig. 5 later) convey this imaginary in which the political is divided into distinct containers of nation-states where each container is a sovereign entity congruously defining a territory, a sphere of political and administrative authority, a people and frequently also a particular culture. Even if this imaginary is not always realized, for example, in case of immigrants or minority groups, nevertheless, our understanding of the political is dominated both on the level of political practice but also on the level of academia by the imaginary of borders creating a firm distinction along the domestic/international and congruously with it the citizen/foreigner divide.

Arguably, the fact that borders used to represent the ending points concurrently of various aspects of social reality, partly explains, why this imaginary of rupture and break prevails. Governmental and administrative practices reinforced borders to signify much more than merely the contours of political life. Territorial borders used to delineate a wide range of social practices ending on one side of the border, and taking place differently on the other side, which inculcated into us - what Michael Shapiro called - a cartographic imaginary (Shapiro 2007), i.e. a particular way of thinking about borders, territory and the political.

The point to make is that when we ask questions about borders one has the impression that we tend to focus on the question whether borders still remain, fade away or become porous, and neglect questions over how different functions and roles, that borders used to perform are disentangled from one another. There seems to be an obsession to find borders disappearing - nicely in line with the globalization mantra - and leaving undiscussed how the capacities of states are changing in 'dictating' and 'defining' borders - both directly and indirectly - as the result of which, although some borders disappear, others, nevertheless, remain. Being obsessed with a territorial understanding of borders we tend to overlook that some borders disappearing in territorial terms might remain with us albeit not in a territorial manner. Just think of enhanced technologies of surveillance becoming non-territorially based. 

The ambitions of this paper are twofold. First, the aim is to provide a genealogical account of how our prevailing understanding of borders and the 'mapping of the world' evolved. Second, the aim is to show, through the example of the evolution of the citizenship regime, how regulations and practices of citizenship were formulated along the cartographic imaginary and later, in the past decades, gradually deviated from this imaginary, making citizenship practices incongruous with this imaginary. The paper will conclude by suggesting that the 'fading of borders' this implied should not make us to forget about borders that just as much remain or even get reinforced in the form on inequalities.  

In case we intend to identify the origins of the 'mapping the world' along the cartographic imaginary (which has at its core a territorial understanding of the political), we should go back to the time when the Westphalian system of states came about at around 1648. Michel Foucault pointed out, that it was around that time that the 'Roman Empire' was finally truly gone, i.e. it was the time when a new logic of governmentality and political practice prevailed in Europe. Foucault argues that it was with the system of Westphalia that the reestablishing of 'the Empire [was] not the ultimate vocation of states [anymore] (Foucault 2004: 291). What he means by this is, on the one hand, that this was the time when the political was decouple from a metaphysical order, and, on the other hand, it was the time when political objectives became limited in nature - i.e. states mutually recognized each other along the logic of sovereignty. Concomitantly, the object of the political became to reign over a specific territory and the people inhabiting that territory.

This in domestic politics implied that states gradually extended their authority over the territory they possessed. Whereas states of the 17th century were hardly present in the daily life of their subjects (later citizens), by the 19th century states became 'present' ubiquitously in the life of their subjects. Bertrand de Jouvenel sees in this expansion of the state a mounting despotism, which for him is despotism regardless if exercised in the name of an absolute monarch, or, in the name of the people. He suggests, skeptically, that the effective wielder of power, [is] seldom the king and [could] never, by the nature of things, be the people (Jouvenel 1997: 239.) Probably, the greatest puzzle - at least for Jouvenel and those who share his concern - is: how and why this despotism of the state became so taken for granted that people do not constantly revolt against it? Arguably, the history of political could be written as the history of subjects protesting against taxes being imposed on them, man of today became rather resigned when he is demanded to pay his taxes, which taxes are higher than what he ever had to pay in the history of mankind. 




Our prevailing mapping of the world to conceive the political on the basis of territorially distinct nation-states is, in a historical sense, a relatively new invention. Here I will briefly discuss how this 'mapping' has evolved and to point out, how all ages had their commentaries on their maps; our age not being an exception. We nevertheless seem to look at maps of today as if they were offering an objective rendering of reality. While indeed, to some extent, our maps depict for us the world out there in a condensed form, nevertheless, the imaginary they convey may also dominate over us, if we remain un-reflexive of them.

Maps of the medieval era were radically different from the maps we have today. Mappaemundi (Fig. 1), that is, Medieval European maps offered an illustrated commentary of Medieval cosmology and depicted what the man of the time believed about the world surrounding him. On Figure 1, we can see the map of the World with Jerusalem in its center. Maps of the medieval times were full of pictures as art and cartography were not yet separate professions. Techniques of painting and cartography both reflected that the medieval world was concerned not with physical reality but rather with the spiritual domain and therefore was not aiming at realistic representations. If we look at pictures of the time we can note that there is no perspective, what is of greater significance is drawn to be bigger, making it a natural order of things for a priest to be the same size as a mountain - very much in accordance with the hierarchical structure of the medieval world. Also, the picture does not try to capture a moment, and make it a standstill. Quite to the contrary the picture may contain various stages of a story and even a variety of viewpoints (Rees 1980). The whole composition is rather a symbol than a fact. Woodward alerts us, however, not to reach the conclusion too easily by looking at these mappaemundi, that man of the medieval era imagined the world to be like a flat disc under heaven. He suggests that for many of those who cared, were not so naïve about reality out there (Woodwards 1985). But physical reality was secondary to the spiritual world. As Augustinus pointed out, that: it is foolish to doubt that [a] faithful man may truly be better than the one who can measure the heavens and number of stars and weight the elements, but who is forgetful of Thee (Augustine 2008: 124).



Fig. 1 - Ebstorfer World Map (1234)


It was in the renaissance that this state of affairs changed, in cartography just as much in art, along the dawn of a scientific understanding of the world focusing on objective reality. The renaissance rediscovered projection, what was known already by the ancient Greeks, nevertheless was forgotten for centuries. Concomitantly, map making started to approximate physical reality with increasing 'precision'. Art and cartography nevertheless remained closely tied and what was projection for cartography was the discovery of the perspective for painting, an objective rendering of reality from a given viewpoint. In case of the former this was the birds' eye view, in case of the latter the eyes of the artists, the observer. From the same spot in the world, any other man in the place of the artist would have seen the same reality out there to put on the canvas. Albrecht Dürer was just as much an artist as a cartographer. His words reflect, how a precise description of reality increasingly permeates the world: There is no which Measurement is more, and more variously, needed than the Art of Painting, which not only requires Geometry and Arithmetic, the foundations of all Measurement, but, much more than any other art, depends upon Perspective, Catoptrica, Geodaesia, Chorographia (Olwig 2002: 239). Despite of the shift towards objectivity, of which the map of Mercator is a good example (Fig. 2), maps are frequently filled with picturesque commentaries - as the Leo Belgicus shows (Fig. 3) - to interpret reality out there.  



Fig. 2 - Gerardus Mercator                           Fig. 3 - Leo Belgicus                                                                                                                                                                    The lion symbolized the emerging                
National consciousness of the Netherlands[i]



As the world shifted towards modern maps, however, it gradually lost its richness in symbols and decoration and increasingly conveys the impression of offering an objective and extremely precise depiction of the world. One may have the impression that the commentaries of earlier times are missing from modern maps, on such maps s a political map of Europe (Fig. 4). The point to make is that although the mythical elements and picturesque illustration are gone, the commentary is still there, in this case reflecting the actual 'mythology of modernity' about the political.


 Fig. 4 a map, any political map nowadays


Arguably, the colors and the borderlines are the commentaries of modern times. Borders separating distinct containers; and colors suggesting that each and every container is internally homogenous. The homogeneity is, however, not merely a device to distinguish one state from another on the map. Quite the contrary, this homogenization is the both explicit and implicit project of state and nation building that prevailed in modernity. The borders and the areas they enclose suggest that there is - or that there should be - isomorphism of territory, authority, population, and culture within each container, each of a distinct color suggesting a clear definition of what belongs within and what belongs outside.

            Let's look at now, how this project of congruity/homogeneity to make the world confirm to this imaginary took place in case of citizenship politics and regulations, in order, to create each and every state into a self-contained universe of its own. The story below can be read as the story of states extending their authority over their subjects/citizens.  




If we look at the evolution of the relationship between state and its subjects/citizens, we can identify membership being increasingly defined according to the principle congruity of state and the people - as suggested by the cartographic imaginary. Along these lines, state demanded exclusive authority over its citizenry, which was in accord with the spirit of the Jacobinical tradition asserting citizenship to be an allegiance hierarchically above every other - man to be beyond anything else the citizen of the State (Badie 2000). The first step in realizing congruity between the state and the citizen was to prohibit citizens to join foreign armies.

            Yet, in the 17th century armies were not nationally based. In 1701 over 50% of British soldiers were foreigners; in France before the revolution the percentage of foreigners in the army was 33%; and in Prussia in 1786 this number was also around 50% (Thomson 1994: 29). The saying went, at the time of Fredrick the Great, that Prussia was not a country that had an army, but an army that had a country, which by the time of Friedrich Wilhelm III completely changed, and the Prussian army became truly Prussian by nationality (Anderson 2006: 22). 

            The 'nationalization' of armies and subsequently the efforts by states to tighten their grip on their citizens came to the fore also in the United States of America. During the Napoleonic war the US took a neutral stance in the European conflict and declared it illegal for US citizens to privateer on French ships after the 7 August 1793 (which was formerly and established activity throughout the western world (Thomson 1994: 78). Just two decades later, in 1812, there was a conflict that even escalated to a war with Britain, upon Britain's impressments of US sailors into the royal navy. Such conflicts led to the concluding of a range of - so called Bancroft Treaties - with European states in order to regulate matters of citizenship (dual citizenship) and naturalization.

            One reason for concluding such treaties was that immigration was not a one-way path, as it frequently believed. It is estimated that close to 25 percent of all migrants returned to Europe, which raised intriguing questions over the nationality of these re-migrants (Gmelch 1980). The general framework of the Bancroft Treaties asserted that an immigrant, once returned to its country of origin, was considered to lose its US citizenship in two years time. As the result of these treaties in effect the norm to avoid dual citizenship was institutionalized, with the principle that every individual should have a citizenship, but should only have one - which principle finally became an international norm with The Hague Convention of 1930.

            The citizenship regime that evolved this way fully confirmed to the cartographic imaginary. It reflected the assumption that the links of emigrants to their country of origin loses its political nature and gradually shifts into nostalgia and assume mythic status (Linklater and Waller 2003: 225). Thereby immigrants were expected to naturalize in their new home, and as part of the process of naturalization to renounce their former citizenship (even if this rule was/could not always be rigorously observed).

            These policies of tightening the ties between citizens, the state and the territory fit the general patter of modern state building intertwined with nation building. The distinctive quality of modern states - contrary to medieval kingdoms - was to rule entirely the territory designated for them both horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, in the sense of reaching out to the furthest corners of the territory by making the authority of the state uniformly present everywhere and vertically, by getting involved to an unprecedented extent in the daily life of the state's subjects/citizens (Calhoun 1993: 217). Through universal education, extensive bureaucracy, but also through the unconscious complicity of fellow citizens, the state attempted to create unity, as Walker pointed out: Even the most self-satisfied states exert enormous energies sustaining a sense of national identity and integrity (Walker 1993: 180).

                It would be far beyond the scope of this paper to offer even a cursory discussion of the various forces, emotions, interests, symbols that buttressed the modern state to be regarded as the "kingdom of ends" for their citizenry. Below I will underline only one of the features of the modern state that buttressed the state's legitimacy for its citizens. This feature was the byproduct of the way citizenship was increasingly defined congruously with the national territory in an exclusive manner.




Aristotle pointed out, that the question how to achieve social justice is a core dilemma for both political theory and practice and there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that justice should be realized through equality: All men think justice to be a sort of equality...but there still remains a question: equality of what? (Aristotle Politics III. 1282b18-22)

Arguably, the success of the modern state is rooted in its capacity - on rational terms - to have offered an ingenious solution for this question through the introduction of citizenship as an equal status making all men of the polity equal as members of a public institution, while it preserved their differences as private individuals. By citizenship as an equal status the modern state managed to realize the equality of men despite of their differences in wealth, sex or religious orientation (Weber 1994: 103). As Hannah Arendt pointed out men are not born equal, but they are made equal by mutually recognizing each other as equal members of their state (Arendt 1962: 301), which endows the modern state with an enormous constitutive power for welding modern political communities together. Clearly, there is always a great amount of emotions involved, as nationalism caters more on the emotional than on the rational register, nevertheless it can be safely argued that no modern state can justify its existence merely on emotional grounds. As Oakeshott suggests modern man is a Rationalist, who stands for the independence of minds on all occasions, for thought free from obligation to any authority save the authority of 'reason' (Oakeshott 1991, 6) - thus it is hard to conceive a modern state that would not realize some form of justification for its existence also on the rational register.

            Status equality is, however, only one of the facets, how equality entered into the political imaginary of the modern state. The Westphalian structure provided the modern state with the context within which equality meant not merely uniform status but allowed for the realization of equality also in the form of diffused reciprocity and the imaginary that all citizens share a same future horizon; to be fellows in a community of fate. What buttressed the imaginary of the social contract under the Westphalian setup of the state was that these three forms of equality were in line with each other, being fulfilled parallel.

            On the basic level, reciprocity in the modern state implies the balance of rights and duties, to apply equally to all citizens. Society is conceived as a cooperative enterprise where all members make efforts for the betterment of the society. Citizens share the belief that, society offers for each of them a fair deal, and we are not to gain from the cooperative labors of others without doing our fair share (Rawls 1971: 96). As the result of this, citizens can regard their society as a collective asset. Members of the society share the responsibility to maintain and collectively enjoy the benefits of their society in the long run. Under the Westphalian setup citizenship is conceived as a permanent faculty, where members are not pushed for a tit for tat to look for immediate returns for their contributions, given that they remain cooperative partners with their fellow citizens in the future, thus they can be sure that they would be paid back eventually in the long run (this is evident in the logic of national pension schemes). Rawls pointed out that: although on particular occasions we are required to do things not in our interest, nevertheless, we are likely to gain on balance at least over the long run under normal circumstances (Rawls 1971: 298).

            Furthermore, the Westphalian setup with the classical citizenship regime in addition to these two conceptions of equality also realized equality in a third way; namely, through offering an identical horizon of opportunities for every citizen. The notions of exclusivity and permanence, which were ingrained in the classical citizenship regime provided for a sensation of equality in the sense that the main reference points and the horizon within which they were to realize themselves was identical for each citizen, and it was mainly dependent on an individual's perseverance and talent to achieve the most of himself as all citizens were closed within the confines of the same horizon. This shared horizon arguably contributed to the nurturing of impression of fraternity of all citizens to be of the same breed, having been the subject of the same authority (Kratochwil 2001: 158), trying to make ends meet within the same socio-political container. Zygmunt Bauman pointed out that reservations toward the cosmopolitan elite and similarly toward immigrants is caused by the impression that they have the means to peek out of this shared horizon (Bauman 2007: 48). They violate the sensation of equality because they seem to have opportunities, which are not available for other, ordinary citizens. One could say metaphorically that they make the impression that they are playing a different game than others. Whereas ordinary citizens all play soccer - although they may play it at different positions - some being midfields, others defenders, there is the suspicion that those with ties beyond have the option at any moment to switch to play basketball, leaving others who do not know the new rules perplexed. Arguably, this imaginary to share the same horizon was the third aspect of equality which reinforced the social contract, the impression that citizens all shared in a community of fate within a closed container called the nation.



In recent decades, however, this mapping of the world via closed containers seems to be fading away, as states decreasingly function as universal and exclusive territorial containers of political life. While globalization grasps some of this development, the concept of globalization, became so overstretched with meanings that it has by now close to zero analytical clout. While one can grasp the 'de-bordering' of the political in various ways, for example, through risks, governmental practices or novel institutions, below I will discuss it through changes in practices and regulations of citizenship.

            At the core of this de-bordering of citizenship is a transformation, which has started in the 1970s with the growing respect of human rights. Respecting human rights reflects the transformation of the political ontology, where individuals are increasingly seen as right claimants independent of their states. Thus, in a way the predominance of the 'state' over the 'individual' is questioned that triggered debates how to balance between the principle of soverignty and at the same time justify intervention in case a state excessively infringes on human rights.

            This growing concern for the 'individual' also came to the fore concerning the norms that regulate citizenship practices and regulation. The epitome of the shift in the political ontology in Europe, is the 1997 European Convention on Nationality, saying that: in matters concerning nationality, account should be taken both of the legitimate interests of States and those of individuals.

            This de-bordering of citizenship is connected to the European project of free mobility within the continent creating, at least in respect of workforce, and market a 'Borderless Europe'. The introduction of European Citizenship after Maastricht was a major step in this process. This in practical terms implied to encourage immigrants to get naturalized even if they retained their former citizenship, and to allow expatriates to retain, or reacquire their citizenship, which normative shift led to an implicit recognition of multiple citizenships. This implied the recognition that borders of the polity - i.e. the demos - were not congruous with the territorial authority of the state, especially when political rights were increasingly recognized for expatriates as well (Recommendation 1410 (1999) of the Council of Europe). Examples abound, suffice to refer here to Italy that  offered the right to vote for its expats in the 2006 elections, which eventually led to Romano Prodi's win over Berlusconi; or to France, which just recently adopted a law to create eleven voting districts abroad, thereby creating in practical terms a seat in the Ensemble National for a representative of the French living in London, for example (The Times October 26, 2009).

Does it lead to a 'new mapping of Europe' - in respect of citizenship practices - where borders disappear? The answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, national borders in Europe have ceased to play the decisive role of packaging the life of European citizens by offering an authoritarian source of identification for them. This may lead to an enhanced 'liberty' of man versus the 'state' in some respect.

On the other hand, however, one can argue that borders abound in Europe. While at earlier times borders meant a quasi uniform limit for citizens of a state (with the narrow exception of the elite), today for some borders have faded away while for others borders still remain as people cannot uniformly make use of the opportunity of mobility. Europe has different borders for someone with a medical degree, with the knowledge of three languages or lacking even basic education. Also borders mean something very different for a German pensioner who may move to the coast of Spain than to a pensioner in one of the Eastern European states. Furthermore, borders mean something very different for a Dane, a Roma or a third country national with a residence in Europe. While Europe might have lost the classical borders that were structuring space (as depicted by the map in Fig. 4), other borders still remain. Without digging deep into this issue I would like to make two observations concerning Hungary.

               One, is that it seems Hungarians are far less mobile than their fellow East European neighbors, which indicates, that there are certain 'borders' that tend to keep Hungarians put, hinder their aspirations to look for a better life elsewhere. It is an intriguing question whether these are material, cultural, cognitive or technical obstacles that explain this.

Second, although Hungary joined the EU as a whole, this had created very diverse opportunities for different parts of the Hungarian population, 'as if some have joined more than others'. This, arguably, demands for the restructuring of the prevailing status hierarchy of the society as with joining the EU it seems decreasingly feasible to maintain a system where human capital at certain sectors of the society - like health care or education - is unappreciated. People in these sectors may simply pack their bags and leave, which could undermine some of the social services. Hirschman pointed out that people can express their political opinion and dissatisfaction both by raising their voice and simply by leaving- i.e. vote by exit (Hirschmann 1970). This, however, for a long time was not only the question of will. Michael Waltzer pointed out that Immigration and emigration are morally asymmetrical, because leaving a place is dependent upon to have a place that is willing to welcome the person to leave. Lack of such a 'welcoming' place or the difficulties inquired when searching for one was prohibitive to vote by exit (Walzer 1983, 40). Even if Europe resolved this issue in terms of borders as of Figure 4, there are other 'borders' that remain, although not uniformly for all citizens of Europe.




Throughout the history of mankind most 'borders' were to be found not so much between different societies as between members of societies. There was frequently less distance between elites of two hierarchically structured societies than between individuals within the same society belonging to its lower and its higher stratum. The 'miracle' of nationalism was to override these differences and bring to the fore borders that divided states/peoples/nations. No doubt the ethos of 'equality' and 'democracy' undermined the rigid social hierarchies of earlier times and greatly contributed to this success of nationalism. Realizing equality and also democracy was tied, nevertheless, to an understanding of the political, which relied on an imaginary of distinct and self-contained units of states where citizenship was defined congruously with territorial borders.

Although the modern states proved successful to dismantle former social hierarchies between its citizens, nevertheless, major inequalities persisted among individuals, which inequalities proved frequently to pose just as resilient 'borders' between individuals as borders of barbed wire between states at earlier times. When contemplating over a borderless Europe one should not forget these borders of inequality that may very much remain and perhaps even become reinforced as the flip side of the dismantling of territorial borders. Hence, it is not only borders of the cartographic imaginary that we should be attentive of.






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