Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, once easily-navigated borders have been hastily closed, grinding international mobility to a standstill. In such a context, this book could hardly be more timely.
Borders, especially between nation-states, might feel like concrete entities, but Klaus Dodds is keen to emphasise that often, this isn’t the case. Casting his geopolitical eye upon fragmented hotspots such as Cyprus, Jerusalem, Georgia and Kashmir, he underlines the realpolitik of the world’s borders as entities that are both contested and (at least in normal times) surprisingly fluid.
Many borders were initially dictated by physical geographical landmarks, but these features are themselves by no means static. Rivers migrate, mountains erode, coastlines fluctuate. Italy’s northern boundaries are shifting as Alpine glaciers retreat, while the fluvial River Plate border between Argentina and Uruguay has been complicated by deposited sediment that has created a new land bridge between the two countries. These changes can have significant consequences for settling contentious mining and/or marine claims (as well as to the lives of people who might experience a border shifting right over their heads).
As Dodds sets out, this is a process likely to become ever more pronounced. Climate change will flood coastal regions and drown islands. Sovereign claims to maritime territories and their resources will become increasingly murky, especially if such claims are based on land that later dips beneath the waves.
Finally, Dodds observes that the pandemic might well result in more technological and biological borders, be they health passports or smart borders, utilised not just to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and future viruses, but potentially as an everyday way of monitoring movement. The Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on borders, he writes, will be with us, in some form or another, for years to come.