Managing people’s (in)ability to be mobile: Geopolitics and the selective opening and closing of borders

Arie Stoffelen*

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

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The currently globalising society is characterised by a tension between increasingly intensive transnational mobility of people and continuous territorial regulation of these flows. This situation has led to the increasingly selective opening and closing of borders, providing territorial access to some while keeping out others. In this paper, I reflect on how such management of people’s (in)ability to cross borders has become a geopolitical instrument. I particularly focus on how mobility inequalities are confirmed within the European Union (EU) to protect the geopolitical and political-economic status quo of the EU itself, but also how this EU-level process regarding people’s (im)mobility fuelled internal discussions regarding the relation between nation-state sovereignty and EU-level decision-making. I first reflect on the citizenship of people and the Cultural Political Economy framework for explaining this (re-)constructed selectivity of borders and border-crossings. Subsequently, I apply these perspectives to the geopolitical construction of two types of border-crossings in the EU, namely irregular(ised) migration and tourism, to reflect on how EU-level and national actors selectively utilise structural-institutional arrangements and semiotic strategies to position themselves within the European framework. By doing so, the paper illustrates the contradictions engrained in the neoliberal system along two lines: (1) generally, the continued territorial logic in the regulation of space in a world increasingly characterised by global economic and human flows, resulting in the blocking of the mobility of some while stimulating the mobility of others in what are supposedly ‘open’ economies; (2) specifically, the explicit (cf. irregular migration) and implicit (cf. tourism) competition between places as to what is the ‘right’, ‘legitimate’ or ‘sovereign’ spatial unit to regulate these flows, resulting in the mobilisation of competing political-economic imaginaries to institutionalise one over the other.
Originele taal-2English
TijdschriftTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 27-aug-2021

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