Bordering and the State

The construction of modern states, the appearance of borders, and the emergence of bureaucracies that allocate paper identities are three aspects of the same story. Modern states have not only monopolized the legitimate use of violence, as Max Weber has stated, but also the “legitimate means of movement,” that is the “authority to determine who may circulate within and cross their borders” (Torpey 2000, p. 7). States have embraced their populations by tracing limits to territories. Such limits distinguish an inside from an outside, a member from a non-member. The edges of state territory define identities as a result. Techniques of identification have been intrinsic to the formation of modern states. John Torpey’s history of the invention of passports (Torpey 2000) and Gerard Noiriel’s research on the carte and the code (the identification of foreigners and the nationality code) (Noiriel 1988) have documented the emergence of unambiguous paper identities attributed by the state. Gerard Noiriel has related identification techniques to the invention of immigration and of the dichotomy national/immigrant, which are relatively novel terms. Likewise, Torpey has proposed that the modern international passport and visa systems originated recently, during the First World War.

Modern states’ monopolization of people’s coming and going as well as the emergence of paper identities have depended on the development of bureaucracies. Bureaucracies issue identity cards and passports, which determine the belonging to a nation-state, and visas, which identify legitimate travelers as they authorize the crossing of the borders of a state. The term “visa” is particularly interesting in this respect. Its first known use dates back to 1831. It originates from the Latin verb videre, to see, and means literally “something that has been seen.” Generally associated with paperwork, that term indicates that an individual has examined, verified, and approved the validity of an official paper. However, the meaning that is currently associated with “visa” is an official mark or stamp on a passport granted by the proper authorities that allows its holder to enter or leave a state, usually for a particular reason. An entry or exit visa may be a stamp that border guards put on a passport; or a consular visa - an authorization to cross the border of the state that is issued away from the border, in national bureaucracies located in countries of departure.

Controlling the movement of people away from the edges of state territory and before the arrival at the country of destination has been characterized as “remote control” (Zolberg 1999). EU visa policy is one of the instruments of such a strategy, since EU visa policy turns consulates abroad into frontlines of migration control. As Virginie Guiraudon (2003, p. 194) has noted:

Remote control however is a strategy that seeks to achieve all goals at once, i.e. to circumvent constraints in cost-effective ways, simultaneously appealing to public anxieties over migration, short-circuiting judicial constraints on migration control, while allowing wanted trade, labor, and tourist flows.

In practice, this means ensuring that aspiring migrants or asylum-seekers do not reach the territory of the receiving countries.

States respond to novel “control dilemmas” (Guiraudon and Joppke 2001) by reactivating old instruments of remote control. Contemporary liberal states face novel control dilemmas encapsulated in the analogy of a triangle whose vertices are politics (democratic, populist, anti-immigrant), law (liberal norms, activist judiciaries) and economics (free trade, mobile capital, interest in foreign labor, global mass tourism).

By issuing visas, consulates filter out the “undesirable” from the “desirable” cross-border flows, therefore achieving the filtering work of borders before the actual arrival on the territory. Borders in this age of mobility aim at “filtering” rather than blocking, “sorting out people and banning the undesirable more efficiently” (Bigo etal.2011,p.77). The EU visa regime is part of a broader re-bordering strategy: the lifting of inter-state frontiers has implied the strengthening, multiplication, and displacement of the external borders of the European Union. The pooling of sovereignty has implied the pooling of fears against “threats” that may come from the outside. Along with classic border policing that conceals a territorial and linear conception of borders, cooperation with sending and “transit” countries turns EU neighbors in “buffer zones” (Andreas and Snider 2000) and widens the EU frontier beyond the edges of territory. However, the rebordering strategy that the Schengen process in particular has underlined is marked by the disjunction between territory and the exercise of state sovereignty. Mathias Albert and Lothar Brock (1996) have termed the disaggregation between territory and functions of state borders as “de- bordering the world of states.” One example is the Schengen Information System (SIS),8 as it ensures the exercise of state sovereignty despite the lifting of inter-state frontiers. The SIS lists each Member State’s banned travellers. These latters are automatically excluded from the Schengen territory whatever the entry point of the EU border that travellers choose. Indeed, defining that as an “e-border” is commonplace. Thus, the border is activated according to individuals. Elspeth Guild (2001, p. 13) has persuasively defined the Schengen approach as “moving the borders of sovereignty and the borders for persons. ” According to Guild, the border is most activated where profiles defined as “potential risks” are most encountered. As Andrea Rea (2009) has pointed out, migration and border control policy-making follows the lines of the New Penology’s rationale that Malcolm M. Feeley and Jonathan Simon (1992) have discussed, which is pre-emptive risk management. Pre-emptive risk management organizes fluidity and promotes the mobility of some. Some foreigners encounter practically no border at all, while others encounter several borders, again and again, starting from the window of the consulate in their home country (Infantino 2013) and/or, as we will see, at the windows of visa application centers run by private service providers.

Because visa policy activates borders already in the countries of departure, I conceptualize visa policy as bordering policy and visa policy street- level implementation as bordering practice. Drawing on the “practice turn” in contemporary theory, practice is treated as “the place to study the nature and transformation of our research object” (Schatzki et al. 2001, p. 2). Day-to-day practices are the vantage point to study state bordering in countries of departure. Day-to-day practices are understood here in the standard sense of street-level implementation: the ways in which policy is put into action. The conceptual shift from borders to bordering rarely takes account of state practices. Critical Border Studies have set a new agenda which goes beyond the association of borders with “lines in the sand”. Noel Parker and Nick Vaughan-Williams (2009, p. 586) have suggested:

Thinking of it [the border] in terms of a series of practices. This move entails a more political, sociological, and actor-oriented outlook on how divisions between entities appear, or are produced and sustained. The shift in focus also brings a sense of the dynamism of borders and bordering practices.

Also the concept of “borderwork” (Rumford 2008) takes into account the role of ordinary people rather than states in performing borders on the premise that several practices and rituals perform borders in everyday life, including the showing of passports or the removal of clothes.

This book focuses on the filtering work of borders that states and nonstate actors achieve by implementing visa policy. The day-to-day implementation of EU visa policy remained largely understudied whereas the construction of the EU visa regime has received much scholarly attention (Bigo and Guild 2003; Guiraudon 2003; Meloni 2006). Through its focus on street-level implementation, this book brings not just the state and the people of the state but also transnational corporations into the analysis of border control.

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