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International Boundaries and Borderlands in the Middle East: Balancing Context, Exceptionalism and Representation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-631
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sep 2017
Accepted/In press29 Aug 2017
E-pub ahead of print25 Sep 2017
Published3 Jul 2018


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  • Contested Development


Renewed academic interest in the Middle Eastern border is only to be expected with the marked increase in fortified territorial limits across the region and the appearance of new borderland spatialities in the sovereign margins of the war-torn Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni states. While the conflict between state power and vulnerable displaced populations at reinforced fences and walls may currently seem to define the Middle Eastern border, this article concentrates on two other recent regional representations that still remain relevant within anArabian context: territorial definition and its deterministic association with conflict in the northern Gulf and the resource-driven finalisation of the peninsula’s territorial framework. This follows consideration of the significance – historical and contemporary – of the Middle Eastern borderland. The author reflects back here on researching these issues extensively over the last three decades and argues that they must be acknowledged in any balanced appraisal of the Middle Eastern border. The article comments on the challenge of extending regional approaches to the study of borders and – on the centenary of the infamous 1916 Sykes-Picot treaty - acknowledges that the Middle East region’s experience of international boundaries continues to be depicted as exceptional. Unsurprisingly, it will conclude that there is no one typical Middle Eastern border.

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