Fabian Gülzau & Steffen Mau: Walls, Barriers, Checkpoints, Landmarks, and “No-Man’s-Land.” A Quantitative Typology of Border Control Infrastructure. [Abstract]

This article investigates how states design their border infrastructures. We attempt to link the characteristics of borders to specific socio-political contexts, with a particular focus on borders as material and physical structures that states set up in order to demarcate, control, and seal off their territory. For this purpose, we introduce the “border infrastructure data” that seeks to capture the infrastructure at the border line. Our empirical investigation of all land borders worldwide (N=630) classifies border architecture into five categories – from relatively open to completely closed – that we describe respectively as “no-man’s-land” borders, landmark borders, checkpoint borders, barrier borders, and fortified borders. While we find that checkpoint borders are by far the most common type of design, we also observe that barriers and fortified borders are frequently used, particularly on the Asian and European continents. Fortified borders are often put in place by relatively affluent states when there is a significant wealth gap with their neighboring countries. Barrier borders typically are erected by states to separate different political systems. Landmark borders are maintained among a community of equally democratic and affluent states. Lastly, “no-man’s-land” borders are found between poor states.

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