Wendy Brown


On her book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty

Cover Interview of September 14, 2011


This is not a book that aims to shape policy (except perhaps, to reveal the absurdity of investing so much money, labor, materials, and hope in nation-state wall building at this juncture in history).

Rather, it is a critical investigation of the relationship of sovereignty and walling in our time.  My purpose is to open up this relationship for readers: to reveal features of walling and the clamor for walling that aren’t on the evening news.

In contrast to arguments for and against walls based on their political acceptability or technical efficacy, I am offering a less literal way of “reading” border walls and the contemporary desire for them.

I also hope to invite readers into the project of thinking theoretically and politically about the problem of waning nation-state sovereignty.  What happens when this 300-year old political form is fading but has not yet been replaced?  What kind of global inter-regnum are we in?  What kinds of political anxieties and fears are generated by this condition and what reactive political formations issue from such anxieties and fears?

To this end, the last chapter makes a turn to psychoanalysis, and more specifically, to psychoanalytic theories of “defense formation” and of sovereign religious power.  I draw some speculative links between the conditions producing psychic defense formations and desires for barricaded nations in an increasingly unhorizoned and porous political landscape.  I also consider the possible overlap between conditions generating desires for an all-powerful protective deity (the desire for religion) and those generating desires for walled nations.

All of these speculations are open-ended and non-empirical.  My aim is to provoke reader reflections on some of the political predicaments of our time, not to close my inquiry with a strong or definitive position.