Culture Matters: Understanding the Impacts of Culture on Economic Development and Security in the Borderlands

to appear in BIG Policy Briefs

Edwin Hodge

Published: August 2019

Keywords: BIG, Policy Brief, Security, Economic Development


"Culture Matters: Understanding the Impacts of Culture on Economic Development and Security in the Borderlands"

BIG Policy Brief, Vol.1 No. 7, August 2019

Watching Fargo (1996), one might be forgiven for thinking that casting for the movie had taken place in Winnipeg. Though the characters were clear about living in Minnestoa, the clothing, landscpae, and diction of the people may as well have been Manitoban. The same pattern holds true accross North America. While Canadian, American, and Mexican borders slice across the land and divide it into politically discrete parcels, cultural boundaries ebb and flow across borders and through geographically large "borderlands". In some parts of the continent, acient Indigenous cultural boundaries remain important - so much so that international agreements like the Jay Treaty of 1794 recognized the transboundary nature of Indigenous territories and cultures, as well as the importance of cross-border travel in maintain access to their traditional lands and relations. 

In other regions of the world, the geopolitical borderlines slice across cultural groups with immediate and significant results. On one side of a new-formed border, a cultural group may find themselves no only isolated, but marginalized - even oppressed - relative to their relations on the other side of the line. The case of North and South Korea illustrates this, as does the case of India and Pakistan, post-partition. 

The practical meaning of this is clear: cultural borders exist, and they matter to contemporary politics. Borders policy - and policies that involve the border - must acknowledge this fact and incorporate it into their decision-making process. 

BIG monthly briefings are short, and written in an accessible way in order to enable non-experts and border scholars alike to gain insight into the work that the Borders in Globalization project has done over the past few years. Each of the monthly briefings will be posted on their website as they are released to partners, stakeholders, and other interested groups