A new essay on the borders of Abyei, and the relationship between territory and the state, published by Anthropology News. Read it below the fold...
Entries in borders (3)
The popular demand for southern Sudan to split from the rule of Khartoum and the north is enormous, and few now doubt the south will choose to be Africa's newest state. But tensions are intensifying along the proposed border, which runs through some of the most fertile land in the country.
It is difficult to draw lines in the desert. The wind tends to quickly cover them up with sand, and the surface is as before. The problem is exacerbated if one has to draw lines around a nation bordered by seven other countries. If that wasn't difficult enough, it is especially hard to draw such lines when you have three competing ideas of where the line should be. Nation states like clear lines between organised sovereignties, separating out the vivid blocks of colour on our maps. Such an understanding is not shared by nomadic peoples, whose concept of territorial ownership can often be durational and change with the seasons. Nor is such an understanding shared by Islamic movements that see only one border: that between Islam and the non-believers. Suffice to say, Saudi Arabia has always had a problem with lines.