Border Fence: Mobility, Infrastucture, and Geopolitics in the Latvian-Russian Borderlands

December 2017 – December 2019
Overview Theory Methods Outputs
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In 2015, the Latvian State Border Guard began to construct a fence on the Latvian-Russian border. Coinciding with fences going up on multiple European borders, the Latvian fence was perceived by outside observers as a response to the “migration/refugee crisis”. However, the Latvian State Border Guard insisted that the fence was planned long ago as part of routine border infrastructure.

The construction of the fence also coincided with increased political tensions between NATO and Russia as a result of annexation of Crimea and war in Eastern Ukraine. Thus many observers in Russia and the West interpreted the Latvian fence as a symbolic demarcation of the new “Iron Curtain”. In response, the Latvian authorities once again insisted that the fence was not related to geopolitical tensions, but was rather part of standard border infrastructure.

The Latvian border fence, then, is simultaneously claimed to be part of border infrastructure, a technology of governing migration, and a symbolic demarcation of post-Cold War geopolitical formations. The proposed project will investigate all three of these interlinked dimensions of the Latvian border fence through ethnographic fieldwork on and around the Grebņeva/Ubylinka section of the Latvian-Russian border. More specifically, the project will examine the concrete practices, as well as the ideological and political contradictions and tensions, of building a liberal democratic state at the outer edges of a state that is itself the outer edge of the “international liberal order”.

Photo credit: Dace Dzenovska

Principal Investigator

Dace Dzenovska


John Fell Fund