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Theory of the BorderTheory of the Border

Thomas Nail

Narrated by Douglas McDonald

Available from Audible

Book published by Oxford University Press

Despite — and perhaps because of — increasing global mobility, there are more types of borders today than ever before in history. Borders of all kinds define every aspect of social life in the twenty-first century. From the biometric data that divides the smallest aspects of our bodies to the aerial drones that patrol the immense expanse of our domestic and international airspace, we are defined by borders. They can no longer simply be understood as the geographical divisions between nation-states. Today, their form and function has become too complex, too hybrid. What we need now is a theory of the border that can make sense of this hybridity across multiple domains of social life.

Rather than viewing borders as the result or outcome of pre-established social entities like states, Thomas Nail reinterprets social history from the perspective of the continual and constitutive movement of the borders that organize and divide society in the first place. Societies and states are the products of bordering, Nail argues, not the other way around. Applying his original movement-oriented theoretical framework "kinopolitics" to several major historical border regimes (fences, walls, cells, and checkpoints), Theory of the Border pioneers a new methodology of "critical limology," that provides fresh tools for the analysis of contemporary border politics.

Thomas Nail is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver.


“...essential for scholars engaged in the "spatial turn" in the humanities, as its method of kinopolitics opens a new avenue for the understanding of the interaction between space and society.”

H-Net Reviews

“This book is genuinely new and profound. In this respect it is a model of the best that philosophy can do. It takes something that is right in front of our faces, that we think we understand, and reveals it to be utterly different from what we thought, thereby giving us the capacity to see it anew and, we hope, without illusion.”

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Is there really a contradiction between globalization and the multiplication of borders around us? In this powerful and original book Thomas Nail effectively demonstrates that this is not the case. Focusing on heterogeneous devices of social division he provides a fascinating genealogy of the border and a compelling theoretical framework for understanding both its contemporary manifestations and the intensity of the tensions, conflicts, and struggles that surround them.”

—Sandro Mezzadra, co-author of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor

“Following on from his ground-breaking work on the figure of the migrant, Thomas Nail's Theory of the Border is at once a meticulous account of the intense and intensely difficult problems of borders that have marked the twenty-first century, at the same time as it transforms how one might think about theory. Rather than simply theorizing borders, the condition of the border generates a new mode of theory in which bounded identities (of persons, nations and territories) are both necessary and impossible. This is not merely an inter-disciplinary work that combines philosophy, politics, social theory and cultural theory; it is a lucid study that transforms the borders of the disciplines with which it engages. ”

—Claire Colebrook, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, The Pennsylvania State University

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University Press Audiobooks