Every human being has a direct experience of borders. At times dramatic, such experiences are always uncertain and exciting and help us grasp the sense of the word "border", the metaphorical use of which has become surprisingly widespread. Borders indicate distinctions, are a source of meaning, create identities, and offer an opportunity for recognising "us" and "them". To effectively understand this concept one must piece together events that occur for, at, and around borders and the arguments used to justify them and make the most of their potential for promoting social and political growth. Accordingly, this book is dedicated to both the reality of borders and the discovery of their metaphorical uses. The author tells many "tales" in order to employ the tools of social theory to assess the meanings of borders: from the line drawn across the ocean by Pope Borgia in order to carve up the Indies between Castile and Portugal to the Berlin Wall, to the "Tortilla Curtain" dividing the United States and Mexico. Borders foster state creation, group identities, and communities, regardless of whether one considers them inventions of modernity or imagines them to be embedded in memory and in primordial relationships. Intellectual authorities often play decisive roles in imposing boundaries and in their redefinition, as may be seen in the recent rise of locally-based protest and separatist movements (for a tragic example, take the Balkans). Unlike what many popular interpretations maintain, globalisation does not really favour the removal or the breach of borders, but rather leads to a new definition of borders pointing to a reality in which individuals and groups seek new meanings and opportunities to relate to each other.
Gian Primo Cella teaches Economic Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Milan.