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The stuff within international borders – and why it still matters

September 17, 2009

This is a response to Inês Neto Galvão apropos a comment on anthropological research on the border between Spain and Portugal that she had posted on the Open Anthropology Cooperative.

I haven’t done research on borderlands but my working hypothesis is that international borders, even today within the EU, still matter a great deal. They are not dissolving or going all blurred and fuzzy as hoped by some. When you cross an international border, you are stepping into another culture area, even in 2009.

Contra [Fredrik] Barth, I suggest it’s not so much the borders as the stuff contained within them that matters: historically centralised states (around Madrid and Lisbon) that developed their own transport and telecommunication networks, political systems, common market, public culture, lingua franca, overseas projections, etc. Yes, there are strong centrifugal tendencies in the regions, esp. within the Spanish state, but you can’t undo centuries of cultural homogenisation in a few decades.

My question is: is there any evidence that border regions of Spain and Portugal are becoming culturally, linguistically, etc, more similar or hybridised?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 9:00 am

    This is indeed the subject of my book Postill, J. 2006. Media and Nation Building: How the Iban Became Malaysian. Oxford and New York: Berghahn. http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=PostillMedia

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