Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

by Jessica Wapner


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We build border walls to keep danger out. But do we understand the danger posed by walls themselves?

East Germans were the first to give the crisis a name: Mauerkrankheit, or “wall disease.” The afflicted—everyday citizens living on both sides of the Berlin wall—displayed some combination of depression, anxiety, excitability, suicidal ideation, and paranoia. The Berlin Wall is no more, but today there are at least seventy policed borders like it. What are they doing to our minds?

Jessica Wapner investigates, following a trail of psychological harm around the world. In Brownsville, Texas, the hotly contested US-Mexico border wall instills more feelings of fear than of safety. And in eastern Europe, a Georgian grandfather pines for his homeland—cut off from his daughters, his baker, and his bank by the arbitrary path of a razor-wire fence built in 2013. Even in borderlands riven by conflict, the same walls that once offered relief become enduring reminders of trauma and helplessness.

Our brains, Wapner writes, devote “border cells” to where we can and cannot go safely—so, a wall that goes up in our town also goes up in our minds. Weaving together interviews with those living up against walls and expert testimonies from geographers, scientists, psychologists, and other specialists, she explores the growing epidemic of wall disease—and illuminates how neither those “outside” nor “inside” are immune.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


“An important contribution that raises public awareness about the potential harm caused by border walls.”Science

“Wall Disease is a sobering and stunning read at a time when countries all around the world are building fences.”—Reinventing Home
Wall Disease completely reframes our conversations about what a border should look like. Jessica Wapner spells out the intense psychological toll of border walls—the emotional destruction they wreak on individuals around the world. This is required reading for political leaders and invested citizens alike.”—DW Gibson, author of 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall

“Walls separate us. They also, Jessica Wapner shows, mess us up in less visible ways. This revelatory book is a reminder of how bizarre our walled-off world is—and how much we have to gain by tearing these walls down.”—Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire

“How would you like to live next to a border wall?  How would you like to be stuck on the wrong side of one?  In Wall Disease, Jessica Wapner tells the tales of people on both sides of the border who answer these questions from bitter personal experience—and tells these tales with compassion and eloquence.”—Bryan Caplan, author of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781615197347
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,205,897
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)

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