The Importance Of Human Borders Essay

Human Borders: Drawn by fear, greed, and other human emotions

Borders, both physical and cultural, have been a staple of human society and are a projection of a society’s values and fears, regardless of if they are just or not. In this paper I will be examining the presence of borders put up by humans and the reasons behind their creation. Some borders have extensive walls that were erected for a purpose, other borders walls are not physical, yet are just as effective at keeping people at bay. I will delve into the reasons why some population’s consensus at the time was to isolate themselves, as well as give some context to what was happening at the time that could influence a society’s choices.

Many reasons to construct borders exist. Some of these reasons are religious differences, economic disparities, and physical protection from foreign invaders. Other borders are cultural boundaries set up to sequester certain citizens of a population. An example of this is the Caste System of segregation in India. If you are born into the “Dalit” class, which is the lowest class in India, you are considered untouchable and can never ascend in social stature. Conversely, some borders have far-reaching walls with watchtowers constantly scanning for signs of trouble. One of the largest examples of this is the Great Wall of China which was erected to protect the Chinese empires against the many nomadic groups who where known to raid and pillage villages.

Dr. Beth Simmons authored an in-depth study named Capacity, Commitment, and Compliance: International Law and the Settlement of Territorial Disputes. In this document Simmons conceptualizes “borders as institutions that produce joint gains.” She argues “settled boundary agreements provide economic benefits to actors on both sides of the border.” One example Dr. Simmons uses to support her position is economic data showing a steep increase in bilateral trade between El Salvador and Honduras after a border dispute was settled in 1992. Dr. Simmons goes on to examine why some governments sometimes allow third party governments to make territorial decisions on their behalf. She uses the 1998 example of when Peru and Ecuador allowed representatives from other countries, including the United States, to arbitrate a segment of their own border in hopes of increasing trade.

While some territorial disputes help enrich communities on both sides of a border, history has shown us many examples of where a border has had a very negative effect on at least one of the communities that it separates. One glaring example was the Berlin Wall that literally split the state of Berlin, Germany in half. Families were forced apart, and in the east half of Berlin the economy all but collapsed, the East German Mark became almost worthless. This led to famine and cultural seclusion that help breed a stern consensus of contempt for those on the other side of the border.

For this paper I will begin to research the early beginnings of territorial disputes, as well as historical motivations that help explain how these disputes translate into borders. I will then delve into examples of physical and cultural borders throughout history and seek to extrapolate a pattern that can shed light on how these borders are drawn. Lastly, I will research who is constructing these borders, both cultural and physical, and examine the relationship between individual human emotions like greed, serenity, and fear, and how these emotions manifest themselves in the physical world in the form of borders.

Work cited

Simmons, B. A. “Capacity, Commitment, and Compliance: International Institutions and Territorial Disputes.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46.6 (2002): 829-56. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015

Barker, Eugene. “Stephen F. Austin and the Independence of Texas.” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 13.4 (1910): 257-284. Print. Description: This article from the Texas State Historical Association was written in 1910 by distinguished professor of Texas History at University of Texas in Austin, Eugene C. Barker. It chronicles the trials that Stephen F. Austin had trying to bring prosperity to his colonies along what is now the Texas/Mexico border. On one side he is attending to the grievances of the colonists, and on the other side he attempted to persuade the Mexican government that his colonists will be loyal to its new country of Mexico. Barker states that Austin, “perceived the best interest of Texas is in unswerving allegiance to Mexico” (Barker, 1).

From 1821 to 1832 was the time when Austin was busy laying the foundation for his colonies. By 1834 Texas was starting to garner national attention and to Austin, loyalty, as Barker states, “became conditional upon the organization of Texas as a separate state of the confederation” (Barker, 3). By 1836 Santa Anna was destroying the federal system of Mexico and establishing a more centralized government. “Austin now realized that even separate statehood would not protect Texas and mentally advanced to the last step- the declaration of independence (Barker, 3).

This article will be used as a good example of some reasons that the people who have the power to draw borders do. It details Austin’s struggle with deciding what is the best path for his communities by discussing the political context of the time, both in Mexico and in Texas.

Carter, David B., and H. E. Goemans. “The Making of the Territorial Order: New Borders and the Emergence of Interstate Conflict.” International Organization 65.2 (2011): 275-309. Print. Comment:

This article is a modern look at how new international borders are drawn. David B. Carter and H.E. Goemans propose, “when states choose new borders they use previous administrative frontiers to solve a difficult short-term bargaining problem and a long-term coordination problem” (Carter 1). They have collected a unique set of data to examine international borders erected within the twentieth century to find the root of what sets the line. Some topics that contribute to these lines being redrawn are secession, partition, and the use of force to name a few. The authors expand on how borders are drawn and how they have important consequences for international stability.

One example that the authors use of how borders can be redrawn in the twentieth century is when the Soviet Union fell apart in the early 1990’s. International borders were redrawn following a practice called uti possidetis, which I will discuss in my paper. This more modern look at how borders are drawn will help us better understand how large groups of humans preferred to group themselves in modern times, which we can compare with how borders were set in the past. Simmons, B. A. “Capacity, Commitment, and Compliance: International Institutions and Territorial Disputes.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46.6 (2002): 829-56. JSTOR. Web.12 Oct.2015. Description:

In this article Dr. Beth Simmons argues, “Governments are motivated to reach territorial solutions to reduce the opportunity costs associated with a festering dispute.” Dr. Simmons sheds light on the process some governments utilize to delineate definitive borders. She states that, “No issue is more likely to stimulate nationalist sentiments or lead to violent interstate conflict than disputes over territory” (Simmons, 829). In her writing she provides economic statistics illustrating how international trade has been affected by territorial disputes, and who has helped solve these disputes.

This article provides insight into how borders are formed and who is responsible for certain lines being drawn between South American countries. Dr. Beth Simmons is Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University and received her PhD. from Harvard University’s Department of Government. Dr. Simmons has taught international relations, international law, and international political economy at many universities including Duke, as well as Harvard. Her expertise in international relations in unmatched, and her insight will help frame a picture as too why borders are necessary as well as provide some pertinent statistics on the topic.

Starr, Harvey, and Benjamin A. Most. “The Substance and Study of Borders in International Relations Research.” International Studies Quarterly 20.4 (1976): 581-620. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015 Description:

Harvey Starr in a professor in International Affairs in the Department of political science. He earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1971 and has since authored many articles on the topic. One of those is The Substance and Study of Borders in International Relations Research, which gives insight into the conceptualization, operation, and measurement of international borders. Starr undertakes four tasks in the article to help fill the gap in information on how borders are formed:

One is to indicate the potentially theoretical role that borders may play in international relations… The second task entails the conceptualization and measurement of international borders. The third task involves using the data derived from this framework to describe the international system in terms of borders for the period 1946-1965. The fourth task is to indicate the utility of a border data set by addressing questions which have been posed in the international relations literature. (Starr 1) Through these tasks Starr illustrates the making of many international borders. This data directly correlates with the research that I am assembling and will provide further support for Dr. Beth Simmons position on territorial disputes.

Winston, James. “Texas Annexation Sentiment in Mississippi, 1835-1844.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 23.1 (1919): 1-19. JSTOR. Web. 11 Oct. 2015. Comment: In 1919 James E. Winston wrote a very insightful article titled Texas Annexation Sentiment in Mississippi, 1835-1844. In it he describes how individuals like John A. Quitman, Felix Huston, and Henry S. Foote would meet and discuss how to foster public sentiment favorable to Texas. Winston quotes the Texan Secretary of State in 1837 as saying “our most important benefit… is the warm unanimous support of the whole South. The failure to accomplish it will produce a dissolution of the Union” (Winston 1).

Winston goes on to speculate that had it not been for the aid rendered by Mississippi and her sister states the story of Texas independence may not be what it is today. There is also a very interesting quote from R. J. Walker, at that time a candidate for election to the United States Senate, he pronounced himself in favor of the acquisition of Texas by treaty, for this would give the South and Southwest six additional slave States, thus enabling the Southern States to maintain control of their “peculiar institution” by reason of their ascendancy in the Senate (Winston 4).

This shows the social issues that play a huge part in drawing borders. It also illustrates a point that Beth A. Simmons wrote about in her article Capacity, Commitment, and Compliance: International Institutions and Territorial Disputes in which a third party (in this case Mississippi) weighs in and has influence on how territorial borders are set. It also reinforces Eugene Barkers assertion that political strife on both sides of the Mexico/Texas border played a role in the border being drawn the way it is today.