Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2014
Entrance into the modern international state system, often brought by colonization, has required establishing territorial limits, often in inhospitable areas. Borders are the epitome of the modern state sovereignty and border lands are the neighbourhoods where the state is most neuralgic about its authority. ‘A boundary is a line indicating where I stop and you begin, separating me from you. Boundaries have to do not only with physical separation but also with social and psychological separation: that is, with identity, indicating who we are and who we are not. Since they divide, they also protect what they have divided, again both physically and psycho-socially’, observes Zartman (2011). Territorial limits to a state are a new development in many parts of the world where the polity was traditionally a population unit rather than a territorial unit. Most boundaries are artificial, the exception being water boundaries around islands. Geographical features help as walls and moats, but are often ambiguous. Artificial borders maybe marked by mined strips, barbed wire, and no man's land. In extreme cases, the barbed wire fence at the outer limits maybe coupled with another parallel barbed wire fence generally a few kilometres within one's state boundaries. Boundaries are often contested and entail conflicts or conflict-like situations. In fact, in many senses, boundary conflicts have all the characteristics of any other conflict.