Walls have been used for centuries as a form of protection against a variety of threats, real or perceived. They have been built to defend against thefts, invasions and threats to cultural identity.
Today more than 70 walls or barriers stand or are being planned by States to prevent entry to their territory. This is despite the perception that we are living in a time where borders are losing their relevance in the face of the necessities of a globalised world.
Despite an increased interest in border walls in recent years, little is said about the relationship between law and the practice of wall building by states. Most legal analysis in this sphere is concerned with the status of the wall in international law, its consequences for the legal status of the territory where it stands. Some have suggested that walls are in fact a sign of the inadequacy of law and politics to regulate the challenges posed by globalisation.
Marie-Eve’s thesis explores the link between law and walls by taking as a starting point the Greek concept of the nomos, often translated by either law or division, as a point of departure for exploring the metaphor of the wall as law.
Her thesis examines the wall between the United States and Mexico and asks what it means to think of law as a wall in a world composed of sovereign states.
It argues that international law, especially through the principle of territorial sovereignty, and its translation in the context of American national law can indeed be conceived as forming a wall in space, that affects a division between political communities.
But that relation between law and wall turns on its head when the metaphor of the wall as law materialises. Then the physicality of the wall itself has normative potential: the wall becomes law.
About the speaker
Marie-Eve Loiselle is Australian Research Council Research Associate in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and a PhD candidate at RegNet, ANU.