“Tear down this wall!” was Ronald Reagan’s ringing challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Now, a geographer calls for more drastic action, arguing that border walls everywhere should come down.
In his earlier book, Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel (2012), Jones (Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa) explored three specific border walls; here, he takes a broader and longer view. In the first half of the book, the author looks at the causes and consequences of global migration, visiting borders around the world and telling the stories of people who have experienced their violent reality. The second half takes a historical approach, as Jones examines other types of enclosures on land and sea and borders as part of a long-term effort to control the movement of the poor. He views borders as producers of violence, creating and enforcing economic disparities and ultimately causing the deaths of thousands and damaging the environment. Since 9/11, barriers have been justified in the name of security, but Jones argues that they have actually been driven by the wall-building state’s desire to protect its wealth and the cultural practices of its citizens. At borders, notes the author, mobility is violently restricted as migrants are funneled into dangerous crossing points, and the security infrastructure leads to thousands of deaths annually. In addition to the cost in human lives, Jones cites damage to the environment; dividing the world into sovereign territories that place the interests of certain citizens above those of humanity as a whole has contributed to the global failure to address climate change. In his conclusion, the author idealistically calls for opening borders to allow free movement and establishing rules for working conditions and environmental protection.
With the building of border walls and the deaths of migrants much in the news, this work is both timely and necessarily provocative.