Floating Sovereignties & the Nomadic Fortress

Recent mapping experiments visualize the interplay between international law and cartography, fixing sovereignty to territory in a mapping mash-up. Anyone reading these needs to give some consideration to Bryan Finoki’s write-up at Subtopia, on some fascinating developments at the US-Mexican border. There, a subterranean border barrier has been injected into tunnel warrens perforating the boundary, in order to mitigate the illegal migration that exploits the area’s swiss-cheese sovereignties.

Finoki builds the case study into a broader meditation on the hydrologic qualities of globalized migratory flows. The piece reads like an extension of sorts to Chris Borgen’s recent speculation on “seasteding” at Opinio Juris. They have water and sovereign entitlements in common, anyway, and both touch on the implications or such for international relations. I would recommend them as twinned readings: Finoki’s response to Borgen’s steasteds are nomadic riverine encampments. Due to the naturally shifting sands on which they sit, they suggest evolving political entitlements as well.

[M]y purpose here is less to try and argue the merits – or lack of – using fluidity
as a productive metaphor, but (after all this excessive verbiage) just
to show a few examples of how issues of “illegal” immigration, national
security, and active floodplain control are very literally – and very
eerily – being handled together in the U.S. government’s attempts to
“secure” the Mexican border.

Where once the government may have been
able to boast progressive environmental conservation, we now seem to be
getting a strange experiment in security preserves
instead. Not security measures designed to protect the environment, but
environmental augmentations that might be meant to protect the security
measures themselves.

The post is  longer than usual , but worth the time it takes to read through it. Finoki writes that his “practice at mumbo jumbo has done very little to clarify anything.” Not so: this piece highlights the murky mechanisms at the margins, the regulatory challenges to liminal life that left unaddressed and unclarified, are all too easily exploited. That’s speaking truth to power.

H/T to Chris Borgen.

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