Understanding Life in the Borderlands
Boundaries in Depth and in Motion

Edited by I. William Zartman

Borders as transitional zones


"This is a highly original scholarly collection on an important topic—the borderlands between the states. The editor has done a superb job of bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines. Zartman's juxtaposition of three spatial models of boundaries is very useful for exploding some of the predominant nationalist and state-centric myths surrounding boundaries, especially within policy circles. In addition, the book adds new insights into the various processes that lead to conflict between borderlands and the center. Overall, this is an impressive volume both for its original scholarship and its perceptions regarding our theoretical understanding about boundaries and borderlands."
—John Vasquez, Thomas B. Mackie Scholar in International Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Understanding Life in the Borderlands offers everything an edited volume should have and almost never does—thesis, conversation among authors, sparkling case studies, and brilliant theoretical analysis. In the hands of the book's contributors, Zartman's model of borderlands as dynamic social processes, where the intractable complexities of life and the ingenuities of people meet the rigidities of sharp political boundaries, offers an exciting, multidisciplinary advance in our understanding of the relationships between places and spaces."
—Ian S. Lustick, author of Unsettled States, Disputed Lands

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The past two decades have seen an intense, interdisciplinary interest in the border areas between states—inhabited territories located on the margins of a power center or between power centers. This timely and highly original collection of essays edited by noted scholar I. William Zartman is an attempt “to begin to understand both these areas and the interactions that occur within and across them”—that is, to understand how borders affect the groups living along them and the nature of the land and people abutting on and divided by boundaries.

These essays highlight three defining features of border areas: borderlanders constitute an experiential and culturally identifiable unit; borderlands are characterized by constant movement (in time, space, and activity); and in their mobility, borderlands always prepare for the next move at the same time that they respond to the last one. The ten case studies presented range over four millennia and provide windows for observing the dynamics of life in borderlands. They also have policy relevance, especially in creating an awareness of borderlands as dynamic social spheres and of the need to anticipate the changes that given policies will engender—changes that will in turn require their own solutions. Contrary to what one would expect in this age of globalization, says Zartman, borderlands maintain their own dynamics and identities and indeed spread beyond the fringes of the border and reach deep into the hinterland itself.

Studies in Security and International Affairs

Page count: 256 pp.
4 b&w photos, 1 table, 3 figures
Trim size: 6 x 9


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I. William Zartman is Jacob Blaustein Professor Emeritus of International Organizations and Conflict Resolution and Director of the Conflict Management Program, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University. Zartman has written, edited, or coedited some twenty books, including Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques and Cowardly Lions: Missed Opportunities to Prevent Deadly Conflict and State Collapse.