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Artificial states? On the enduring geographical myth of natural borders

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Published in Political Geography. 2010
Abstract Alberto Alesina, William Easterly and Janina Matuszeski's paper Artificial States, published as a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper in June 2006, suggests a theory linking the nature of country borders to the economic success of countries (Alesina et al. 2006). This paper critically examines this suggestion that natural boundaries and ethnic homogeneity are desirable for economic reasons. It takes issue with the understanding of artificial and natural boundaries that they develop, arguing that this ignores two centuries of critical and quantitative geographical scholarship that has mapped, documented and critiqued the obsession of a link between topography and the appropriate shape of states and boundaries. It explores how their argument is linked to a defence of ethnically homogeneous states. The focus is on their teleological and paradoxically ahistorical vision that naturalises politics by appealing to spatial myths of homogeneity and geometric destiny, grounded in a reactionary understanding of space as container. In so doing, I am mindful of the strong links between such proposals and calls for post-conflict partition, and the corresponding discourses of ethnic and cultural homogenisation on which they rely. Instead of thinking of boundaries as geometric objects, squiggly or not, I consider boundaries through the simultaneous processes of reification, naturalization, and fetishisation.
Keywords Artificial statesBoundariesEthnic homogeneityFailed statesNationalismNatural boundariesTerritorial trap
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Note "online first" dès Mars 2010, numéro volume à confirmer.
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FALL, Juliet Jane. Artificial states? On the enduring geographical myth of natural borders. In: Political Geography, 2010. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:5676

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Deposited on : 2010-04-09

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