According to the Westphalian principle on which the modern nation state is predicated, borders are the legal territorial boundaries that delimit countries. Countries, in turn, exert their sovereignty on the territory that borders contain. How are these borders produced and maintained, and who is in the business of doing so? We tend to assume that states are the main, and often only, border-makers, according to rather straightforward mechanisms of delimitation and demarcation. However, other actors (including International Organisations and other non-state actors) are also in the business of border production and maintenance; and their activities are far from limited to delimitation and demarcation.
Looking at bordering practices and actors is a window onto world politics and gives us a distinct insight into how sovereignty is exerted on the global stage. The Caucasus and the Sahara-Sahel offer piercing case studies, showing how some states promote their interests by producing new de facto borders; how other actors, unrecognized by the international community, try to perform their sovereignty at and through borders; and how International Organisations and the Global North contribute to the maintenance of the Westphalian system in areas where states are unable to do so themselves.
Giulia Prelz Oltramonti is Associate Professor of Political Science at ESPOL, Université Catholique de Lille.