In recent years, political turmoil in both North America and Europe has been focused, arguably to an unprecedented extent, on barriers to movement. The resurgence of nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment, religious intolerance, and protectionism are aspects of restriction that restrain and inhibit cross-border flows of people, goods, money, ideas, and information. At present, the world also struggles with new barriers to movement coupled with personal restrictions imposed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

These sources of closure, often marked by anxiety and mistrust, are placing liberal constitutional regimes under great pressure.

Barriers and Borders aims to deepen trans-Atlantic scholarly exchanges by convening a research network centred on these themes. It seeks to bring sustained conceptual, analytical, and historical attention to the causes and consequences of constructing (or reconstructing) such impediments. Through visual and textual explorations, the project provides a platform for researchers to:

• think systematically about borders, including their origins and different institutional arrangements

• identify points of similarity and variation behind their manifold beginnings and structures

• investigate the impact of border regimes and spaces on people’s lives

• explore how choices about the character of borders shape the character and prospects of liberal democracy

The project is a collaboration between Columbia World Projects and the Centre for History and Economics, and  is supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.


Ira Katznelson, Gareth Stedman Jones, Franziska Exeler, Mary-Rose Cheadle

Contact: Mary-Rose Cheadle

All images contained herein are the sole intellectual property of the contributor. Any use of them without prior consent is strictly forbidden.