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The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries

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The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries explains why some borders deter insurgents, smugglers, bandits, and militants while most suffer from infiltration and crisis. Grappling with an issue at the core of the modern state and international security, George Gavrilis explores border control from the 19th century Ottoman Empire to 21st century Central Asia, China, and Afghanistan. Border control strategies emanate from core policies of state formation and the local design of border guard institutions. Secure and open borders depend on institutional design, not on military power.Based on research in numerous border regions, this book advances the study of the state, local security institutions, and conflict and cooperation over border control. It holds critical lessons for policymakers and international organizations working to enhance border security in dangerous regions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This book masterfully crosses not only boundaries between political science subfields but also disciplinary boundaries to engage sociology and political geography. It should therefore be of interest to a variety of audiences across fields…The detailed case studies are based on extensive fieldwork, working with primary source material in multiple languages in multiple locations. The historical material is not only fascinating in its own right, but powerfully demonstrates the utility of historically informed analysis for current border security debates.…This slim and smart book is an important contribution to our understanding of geographic and temporal variations in the practice and politics of border controls.”
-Peter Andreas, Brown University, Political Science Quarterly

“In this marvelous book, George Gavrilis advances the key argument that the effectiveness of the management of interstate borders is not so much a consequence of state capacity as of state-building strategies. Furthermore, positive cooperation at the border…is more likely to occur if border guards are given wide-ranging competences in day-to-day decision making rather than if borders are hierarchically managed from the center.…The arguments that Gavrilis puts forward in this book should lead policymakers and analysts alike to rethink the relationship between state building and the success of border policing.”
-Thomas Diez, University of Tübingen, Germany, Perspectives on Politics

“The most important contribution of this book is to make a simple point, albeit one that is frequently missed in border studies: that border security depends on institutional design (particularly that which encourages local cross-border collaborative policing)[…] its counterintuitive claim that a state which “delegates and surrenders authority to its boundary administrators has a better chance of achieving a secure border” is given substantial support, particularly from the Central Asian case study […] This is in itself an important achievement. It is one that enthusiasts for ever tighter, centralized, and unilateral border controls in the United States and elsewhere need to reflect on before they realize the exact opposite of what they intend.”
-John Agnew, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences

“This brilliantly original book explains why so many attempts to secure international borders have failed. Gavrilis shows that only when neighboring states pay attention to local borderland interests and avoid micromanaging from the center can they hope to better control movement and security across frontiers. The exploration of nineteenth century Greek-Ottoman and twenty-first century Central Asian border politics are fascinating. Moreover, the policy implications for such cases as today's Afghanistan are clear. Gavrilis should make everyone who deals with border issues around the world rethink traditional but unworkable policies that continue to do so much harm.”
-Daniel Chirot, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Professor of International Studies, University of Washington

“What are the conditions under which international borders become stable and secure? Why has it been so difficult for some modern states to impose security over their borders? Why borders continue to be a major source of conflict and what can be done to prevent this? Gavrilis’ book tackles these important questions by focusing directly on a number of specific border areas. By drawing on case studies that span Greece and the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century and the post-Soviet Central Asian states in the twenty-first, Gavrilis finds that secure borders emerge only when various groups who live in these areas are enlisted in the policy of stabilizing the borders. Whether these groups are allowed to play such a role depends on the specific processes of state formation that unfolds on either side of the international boundary. This is an exceptionally rich study that is based on archival research in several languages, fieldwork in multiple sites, a thorough reading of secondary literature, and a firm grasp of theoretical issues. Garvilis’ mastery of his subject matter is truly breathtaking. The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries will be a required reading for anybody who is interested in how borders are formed, what makes them viable, and how to make them secure and less violent.”
-Reşat Kasaba, University of Washington

“Gavrilis has written a masterful book on a central problem that all modern states face, and yet, about which there is scant research — the protection of shared boundaries. He traces the roots of this problem both geographically and historically, taking us from the disintegrated Ottoman Empire to emergent Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Along the way, he offers rare and valuable insight into why states often pursue solutions to this problem that undermine their own border security.”
-Pauline Jones Luong, Brown University

"...the arguments that Gavrilis puts forward in this book should lead policymakers and analysts alike to rethink the relationship between state building and the success of border policing, from assistance to struggling states to the erection of walls and fences in the belief that centralized control and high-end technology will guarantee successful boundary management- a belief that Gavrilis's book turns into an illusion.
Perspectives on Politics, Thomas Diez, University of Tubingen, Germany

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521898997
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/22/2008
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

George Gavrilis is Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, Austin. In 2009, he served as an International Affairs Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. His previous positions include Director of Research for the CFR Oral History Project, Columbia University; Associate Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University; and National Security Postdoctoral Fellow, Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University. His articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, PS: Political Science and Politics, and American Behavioral Scientist. He has conducted research in the Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Balkans.

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Table of Contents

1. The trouble with borders; 2. Four claims about interstate boundaries; 3. Border guards, bandits, and the Ottoman-Greek boundary regime in the nineteenth century; 4. The view from above; 5. State formation and Central Asian peripheries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; 6. The view from below; 7. Implications and interventions.

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