Wendy Brown


On her book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty

Cover Interview of September 14, 2011

A close-up

The first few pages of Chapter One take the reader on a visual and textual tour of some of the new walls:

Of the new walls striating the globe… best known are the United States-built behemoth along its southern border and the Israeli-built wall snaking through the West Bank, two projects that share technology, subcontracting, and also reference each other for legitimacy.  But there are many others.  Post-apartheid South Africa features a complex internal maze of walls and checkpoints and maintains a controversial electrified security barrier on its Zimbabwe border.  Saudi Arabia recently finished constructing a ten-foot-high concrete post structure along its border with Yemen, which will be followed by a wall at the Iraq border (which in turn Saudis say may be followed by walling their whole country).  To deter refugees from its poorer neighbors, to stake its side in a land dispute, and to suppress the movement of Islamic guerillas and weapons across its Pakistan border, cruder barriers have been built by India to wall out Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma and to wall in disputed Kashmir territory.  The crudeness should not deceive: India has mined the land space between double layers of barbed and concertina wire along the Indo-Kashmir border. Also in the context of a land dispute but officially built in the name of interdicting “Islamic terrorists,” Uzbekistan fenced out Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001 but Turkmenistan is now fencing out Uzbekistan.  Botswana initiated the building of an electric fence along its border with Zimbabwe in 2003, ostensibly to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease among livestock but aimed at interdicting Zimbabwe humans as well.  In response to the south Thailand insurgency and to deter illegal immigration and smuggling, Thailand and Malaysia have cooperated to build a concrete and steel border wall.  There is the wall between Egypt and Gaza, brought to the world’s attention when it was breached in January 2008 by Gazans seeking food, fuel and other domestic goods.  Iran is walling out Pakistan.  Brunei is walling out immigrants and smugglers coming from Limbang.  China is walling out North Korea to stem the tide of Korean refugees, but, parallel to one section of this wall, North Korea is also walling out China.

There are also walls within walls:  Gated communities in the United States have sprung up everywhere but are especially plentiful in southwestern cities near the wall with Mexico…