Contemporary issues like the refugee crisis, climate refugees, and global restrictions on movement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have brought into stark relief the extent to which our movements, lives, and worldviews are governed by national borders and boundary-making. But these borders and their associated militarization and security infrastructures are a recent phenomenon, the legacy of 20th-century wars and colonialism. Modern borders are also often the result of complex, disputed negotiation processes between governments and other authorities, which rarely take into consideration the local populations living in border zones.

What happens when these modern border-making processes interact with nomadic peoples? How is pastoralism affected and circumscribed by nation-state borders and boundary regimes? This episode discusses histories of border formation in the modern Middle East in relation to nomadic pastoralists – the Bedouin – specifically in Iraq and Israel. I talked to a range of scholars working on these topics, and you’ll hear from them throughout the episode. We also talk about the effects of these borders on the Bedouin today, as well as evidence for Bedouin alternatives to borders and maps. 

Music in this episode: Desert City by Kevin MacLeod. License.

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