Boundaries, Inequalities, and Legitimacies (B.I.L.) – A Conceptual Framework for Borders Studies Collaboration

Bernd BucherFranklin University Switzerland

This contribution reflects the ongoing discussions of a group of participants at a GLAA border studies workshop in the summer of 2017. It seeks to develop an integrated conceptual framework and a basis for research cooperation among scholars, programs, and institutions studying borders. The framework itself is designed to allow for the contribution of diverse disciplines, approaches, and methodologies, to a shared research agenda focused on three intertwined dimensions of borders, namely 1) boundaries, 2) inequalities and 3) legitimacies.

Dimension one centers on the notion that boundary drawing constitutively links insides and outsides and is irreducibly tied to the construction of social (id)entities. Boundaries in practice not only signal conceptual relation(s); they have complex and multifaceted political, social, cultural, emotional, and environmental implications as well. As any boundary drawing practice produces difference, the project’s second dimension focuses on how differences are translated into inequality in practice. Thirdly, boundaries can and should also be assessed normatively. The third conceptual dimension therefore links to questions of the legitimacy of boundary drawing practices, resulting differences, and inequalities. It also allows studying the construction of legitimacies.

Together these dimensions open a conceptual space which diverse approaches can occupy (addressing one or more of these dimensions) in order to add to a growing web of knowledge on boundaries and borders. To allow for a cumulative process, this paper envisions a shared digital platform that bundles conceptual resources, and provides a home for contributions that draw on this framework. Over time, it may generate a web of studies (from multiple member institutions, both faculty and students, and focused on both teaching and research) that allow for increased knowledge generation and cooperation across member institutions.


Boundaries/Borders, Difference/Inequality, Legitimacy, Collaborative Research, Conceptual Frameworks

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