Borderlands as Normative Spaces

Borderlands are territories that are subordinated to a certain national regime and are therefore subject to the norms of its specific political system. Hence along a border, two extremely different political systems may meet if subjected to extremely different political norms. This is best illustrated through the example mentioned above of North and South Korea. However, in numerous cases borderlands are also zones of cultural overlap where national identities (or a people's self concept) become blurred in the population. This blurring of identity occurs for reasons of proximity and history: Different peoples live in each other's vicinity and borders are highly dynamic, shifting over the course of history. On the Italian side of the Italian–Austrian border, elderly people may have lived in different states with different norms and values over the course of their lifetimes. They became used to learning and speaking different languages, holding different passports, and continuing to find themselves in different neighborhoods. These people and their descendants, like those living in the Vojvodina, may have a clear concept not of their territorial belonging and national identity, but rather of their regional belonging and identity. Thus, these people often have a normative knowledge of both sides.

In many borderlands, political regimes deliberately or unwittingly exercise influence on the other side of the border. Along the US–Mexican border, norms and standards in addition to cultural values are transferred across the border. Companies in the Mexican borderland frequently orient themselves toward US corporate governance principles. In other contexts, cooperation between organizations is possible only if one partner adapts to the norms of the other. In the Dutch–German borderlands, companies can decide whether they want to adapt to German or Dutch laws, regardless of which nation they are located in. Moreover, within the EU, political, social, and economic norms are actively propagated within and across EU boundaries through a variety of different programs initiated in the late 1980s. In 1989, the EU started to fund Interreg cross border cooperation (CBC) projects with the aim of assisting adjacent regions on the internal and external borders of the EU. The initiative's purpose was to form partnerships in order to work together on common projects designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion throughout the EU. With the launching of the 'Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring Their Economies' (PHARE) program in 1989, the EU went beyond its boundaries by beginning to exert political and economic influence on Central and Eastern European Countries. The aim of the PHARE program was to assist applicant countries in their preparations for joining the EU. It was replaced by the program 'Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization' (CARDS) in 2001.

These examples thus demonstrate that political systems have a major influence on borderlands and their populations. Such influence is persistent in the collective memory of borderland populations and in business interactions and can, in certain cases, even manifest itself in the landscape. Finally, values and norms are represented in borderlands through practices and a range of ways in which the material world is organized. One illustration is the militarization of the border and distinctive checkpoint procedures, as along the US–Mexican border. A second is the frequent location of camps for asylum seekers in borderlands. Another is the type of special agreement that allows police to cross the border when a crime has been committed. While in Europe the border landscape has changed dramatically, in other contexts, national power and norms are manifested at the border and in the borderlands through, for instance, checkpoints, signs with warnings, and the presence of an army.