An Internationalist Front Against Border Imperialism




In this conversation recorded for The Funambulist podcast in April 2021, Léopold talks with Harsha Walia about the research deployed in her book, Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (Haymarket, 2021), which draws an international map of the border imperialist regime in its geographic, historic, and legal complexities. They then proceed in trying to envision the various forms of internationalist solidarities that emerge in the struggle against this globalized border regime, taking cues from Indigenous and/or Black resistance.

Lucie Bacon Funambulist
“Five Years to Reach Hamburg from Kabul” by Lucie Bacon (2015). / Étrange Miroir and Migreurop, Moving Beyond Borders (more on

LÉOPOLD LAMBERT: I read your book as if I was looking at a complex and detailed map. While most national state myth envisions borders as perfect and immovable geometric lines that demarcate non-conflicted sovereign lands, you show in so many ways that these lines often move, they duplicate their thickness, and quite often, they reinforce the settler colonial conditions in which they have been traced. They are only one part of a carceral archipelago that counts islands, detention centers, jails, prisons, courts, etc. Those islands are inside, but also outside the nation state. The book also shows that these borders delineate a legal milieu in which the various markers of racialization are explicitly or implicitly turned into laws that creates the conditions in which some will be deemed as law abiders or citizens, and others as criminal and/or undocumented. And, of course, labor and the various regimes of capitalist exploitation are also front and center of the reality you’re describing. Could you address this very geographical dimension of your book?

HARSHA WALIA: When we think about borders, we often think about securitization as happening at the site of the border: that line drawn on the map. But bordering regimes, as you note, are multiplying: they’re everywhere, they’re internalized within the nation state, they’re externalized beyond the nation state. I’m not the first person to say it but this is central to understanding bordering regimes because borders are not only about demarcating space and territory, these regimes are also about reproducing and maintaining racial capitalism, racial citizenship, imperialism, and more.

So the ways in which bordering regimes multiply are as important, if not more important than, thinking about the securitization that’s happening at the site of the border itself. Here I’m thinking about how there is so much focus only on the symbol of the border wall at the US–Mexico border, for example. The multiplication and the elasticity of the border under the last several US administrations (extending the border further and further south) is just as, if not more harmful, as the militarized border wall itself. And so thinking about how that operates in various places around the world, like Europe’s borders everywhere, helps us to see how the border multiplies and thickens and globalizes border violence. To do so, we need to address both the internalization and the externalization of the border.