Introducing Élisabeth Vallet
It was several days after the fall of the Twin Towers, in the aftermath of September 11, before we could gradually resume air travel in North America. But this brief incident heralded a trend driven by a growing paranoia directly linked to the fact that the enemy was now non-state, stealthy and multinational; the approach to border control would radically change. As a result, the security tensions of the early 21st century have brought borders, once simple lines between nations, to the centre of what defines a state’s identity. Once flexible and permeable, sometimes even unmarked, they have become harder: reinforced, fortified, armored, and defined by massive infrastructure projects – walls, barriers, watchtowers, patrol paths – symptoms of the confinement of nation states behind ever more sophisticated ramparts. From this perspective, borders are no longer intended to channel flows to crossing points but to stop them, pure and simple. And the sanctuary of the state behind walls, which at the turn of the millennium seemed to be a thing of the past – a bygone era – has gradually become normal. This is demonstrated without ambiguity by the ease and promptness with which borders around the world were closed in the spring of 2020, in the heart of the pandemic. My research therefore aims to understand how the confinement of the world results from global security shocks, but also how, while they are designed as a remedy for the uncertainties of a global world in full reorganization, the walls produce instability without, however, solving the initial problems they aim to answer. Paradoxically, mobility and immobility are concentrated around the border wall, where the inequalities of deviant globalization manifest. This is the reason why my research starts from the hypothesis that border walls must be thought of through a global lens. Indeed, the walls reflect the dysfunctions of globalization, they are the result of a polarized world and a function of multilateralism, but make it impossible to permanently stop the flows that they are supposed to stop. Through my home institutions, the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at UQAM and the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, I therefore have the opportunity to develop my research across the board, while benefiting from the contribution of the pan-Canadian network “Borders in Globalization”, based out of the University of Victoria. The benefit is that I am then able to cross disciplinary, institutional, provincial and linguistic boundaries, and in this way build (scientific) bridges rather than walls.
Élisabeth Vallet is a researcher at the CIC, and the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at UQAM and the Royal Military College Saint Jean. As a CIC fellow, focusing in particular on inequality and border studies, her research aims to understand how global security shocks lead to increase in border fortification around the world, but also how, despite being conceptualized as a remedy for the uncertainties of a world in disarray, the borders themselves produce instability, without resolving the initial problem.