||The dividing line between one spatial unit or group and another. Human spatial boundaries are defined by social activities and range from the precise to the fuzzy, depending on the nature of the social activity in question. For example, political boundaries drawn to delimit the territory of a state mark the precise limits of the state\'s claim to jurisdiction or sovereignty. The boundaries of governmental units within a state serve to demarcate areas of legal responsibility for public-service delivery and revenue collection. Under federalism boundaries between the basic spatial units (Provinces, States, Cantons, etc.) are of special political importance, representing the authority exercised by separate units within the overall system of units. Social and cultural boundary-making are no less universal, and in certain circumstances the results show up vividly in the cultural landscape, as in, for example, contrasts in agricultural practices and building styles between English-settled and French-settled Quebec. More frequently, however, social and cultural boundaries are dynamic and fluid, responding to shifts in patterns of social solidarity and mobilization. As a result, they appear more like moving gradients than precise, linear borders. Moreover, linguistic, religious and economic boundaries are often cross-cutting and permeable rather than mutually reinforcing and impermeable (Weiss, 1962). With increased population mobility, social and cultural boundaries become complex and less susceptible to simple cartographic representation (Harley, 1989).
The terms border and frontier are sometimes used as if they were equivalents to boundary, which they are in popular English-language usage. But they seem more \'matter of fact\', referring to legal or official boundary lines and zonal areas, respectively. Boundaries involve perceptions by one or other parties of features that distinguish them from one another (Cohen, 1994, p. 122). In geographical usage this is the most general concept designating definite social, cultural or political differences between contiguous areas or populations. Professional usage, however, is sometimes much less clear. For example, some writers reserve the term boundary for the specific case of a boundary-line, preferring border as a zone or line and frontier as a line, zone of demarcation or zone of settlement. This makes boundary the most specific and the others more general. Throughout the social sciences, however, the term boundary has the greatest importance as a concept signifying material and symbolic divisions between social groups (e.g. men and women, rich and poor), areas of knowledge (e.g. disciplinary boundaries) and sets of social practices (e.g. moral boundaries), so it seems best to endorse this practical usage rather than arbitrarily give border and frontier the greater scope. Boundary also has importance in anthropology and sociology as a metaphor for the relational character of group formation and differentiation (Cohen, 1994; Silber, 1995). One group always forms by creating boundaries between itself and others.
Human spatial boundaries are defined when, in the process of social interaction, groups form geographically and differentiate themselves from one another (Simmel, 1971). Socialization into group membership, therefore, is intrinsically spatial. A boundary between two groups is the result of distinctive patterns of behaviour and systems of symbols that are formed geographically (Cohen, 1974). conflict arises when boundaries are ill-defined or there is contested territory. Although imprinted into consciousness in the process of learning, there is always an ambiguity about the meaning of symbols and the differences that they signify, so that the \'traditions\' associated with a group are rarely static but constantly reinterpreted (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983). Ambiguity is particularly evident when a social group, such as an ethnic group (ethnicity), is deeply stratified by caste or class or when large-scale social change challenges the maintenance of existing political and social boundaries.
The practice of territoriality by groups is reinforced when social and economic differences between adjacent groups are perceived by them as relatively great. Boundaries then are not so much inclusionary as exclusionary in nature. Distancing and segregation between ethnic groups and classes become pervasive. Physical barriers and legal devices are used to exclude those who threaten the security and material interests of those groups with sufficient power to exclude. Space is never readily available for expropriation. It is always occupied, guarded and bounded by those who have the power to do so. The real existence of spatial boundaries testifies to the degree to which space is never a totally \'fluid medium in which mobile subjects dwell\' (Pile and Thrift, 1995, p. 374), something that is lost on those philosophers and social scientists who use spatial metaphors (such as that of \'boundary\') to indicate social oppositions and contrasts without understanding the social significance of a boundary\'s real spatial content. Important social boundaries are rarely just latent in texts or social categorizations but are found in the landscapes of everyday life.
States and other forms of socio-political organization (such as hierarchical churches and businesses) exercise their power in part through their ability to draw and redraw boundaries inside and around their territories (Sack, 1986). Controlling and managing territory necessitates the demarcation of definite boundaries. These can be formal, as with the delegation of authority to local government units, or informal, as when national governments implement policies to favour their electoral constituencies or specific ethnic or regional groups within the national territory (e.g. on Northern Ireland, see MacLaughlin and Agnew, 1986).
The external boundaries of states have received the most attention from geographers, usually without much discussion of their genesis in social processes. The tendency has been to tie them to physical features, as if the physical world was somehow responsible for their definition, or, more realistically, to see them as the outcome of frontier settlement/development and inter-state conflict. Interest in the historical specificity of boundary-making by states and how this affects the Identity of different national groups is very recent (see, e.g., Sahlins, 1989; Krishna, 1994; Paasi, 1996). There is evidence that the rulers of the ancient empires, such as those of Rome and the early Chinese dynasties, did not share the modern predilection for defining the edges of their empires in terms of fixed boundaries: \'Ancient imperialism saw control over peoples and towns as the essence of sovereignty â€¦ in antiquity territory was not a factor constituting the essence of the state as it is in our times\' (Isaac, 1990, p. 417). In medieval Europe the hierarchical subordination of different strata by the preceding one (e.g. monarch, nobles, peasants) and the importance of local feudal links encouraged a plurality of social bonds without an exclusive identity based on membership in the \'imagined community\' (Anderson, 1983) of the nation-state. Rigid spatial boundaries became important only when the sovereignty of the state and citizenship within its territory displaced that of a monarch in a rigid social order as the main source of political legitimacy (Connolly, 1988).Â (JAA)
References Anderson, B. 1983: Imagined communities: reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.Â Cohen, A. 1974: Two-dimensional man: an essay on the anthropology of power and symbolism in complex society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Â Cohen, A.P. 1994: Self consciousness: an alternative anthropology of identity. London: Routledge.Â Connolly, W. 1988: Political theory and modernity. Oxford: Blackwell.Â Harley, J.B. 1989: Historical geography and the cartographic illusion. Journal of Historical Geography. 15: 80-91.Â Hobsbawm, E. and Ranger, T., eds, 1983: The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Â Isaac, B. 1990: The limits of empire: the Roman army in the East. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Â Krishna, S. 1994: Cartographic anxiety: mapping the body politic in India. Alternatives 19: 507-21.Â MacLaughlin, J. and Agnew, J.A. 1986: Hegemony and the regional question: the political geography of regional industrial policy in Northern Ireland, 1945-1972. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 76: 247-61.Â Paasi, A. 1996: Territories, boundaries and consciousness: the changing geographies of the Finnish-Russian border. London: Belhaven Press.Â Pile, S. and Thrift, N. 1995: Conclusions: spacing and the subject. In S. Pile, and N. Thrift, eds, Mapping the subject: geographies of cultural transformation. London: Routledge, 371-80.Â Sack, R.D. 1986: Human territoriality: its theory and history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Â Sahlins, P. 1989: Boundaries: the making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Â Silber, I.F. 1995: Space, fields, boundaries: the rise of spatial metaphors in contemporary sociological theory. Social Research 62: 323-55.Â Simmel, G. 1971: On individuality and social forms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Â Weiss, R. 1962: Cultural boundaries and ethnographic maps. In P. Wagner, and M. Mikesell, eds, Readings in cultural geography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 62-74.
Suggested Reading Cohen (1994), 118-32.Â Paasi (1996).Â Sack (1986).Â Sahlins (1989).