A Wall of Words: Representing Border Securitisation in Contemporary Fiction

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The current wave of nationalist populism can easily appear to represent a post-global moment in which the liberal fantasies of a borderless world seem increasingly obsolete. Part of this trend has been a revivification of the border which takes concrete form in a new wave of border fortification, with substantial investment in physical barriers and technological securitization. This has been accompanied by a substantial rhetorical investment in the power of the securitized border to cure the political ills of the nation state. Far from signalling the end of globalization, however, these trends can be read as a new expression of contradictions that always inhabited globalization. As Didier Bigo has argued, border fortification has long served as a symbol of governmental efficacy in response to declining state control over trade at an international level. The combination of the border’s physical and symbolic reality draws attention to its status as a readable object. This has been widely recognised in visual culture leading to numerous attempts to depict and repurpose the border-object in a manner that brings state power into scrutiny. It is also visible in recent theory of the border by writers such as Angus Cameron, Mireille Rosello and Stephen F. Wolfe, or Johan Schimanski who have all stressed the semiotic potential of the border-object. It has been less apparent in literary works, where the focus on migration has tended to concentrate on the act of crossing rather than the border-object itself. This concentration has tended to overlook the different forms that the border-object can take and to minimise the significance of different forms of border-object which can operate in quite different ways. By looking at how the border-object is depicted in recent literary fiction, this paper suggests that these kinds of representations demand that the reader engages with the border-object critically, and in so doing subject the underlying claims to power with critical attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • Borders
  • Migration
  • Literary Criticism and Theory
  • Visual Culture
  • Contemporary Art
  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Globalisation


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