Book review: Global border politics sows racism and human exploitation

BC activist and scholar Harsha Walia makes compelling arguments in her fortifying new book on our global man-made crises

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Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

Harsha Walia | Fernwood Publishing (Halifax and Winnipeg, 2021)


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$ 27 | 320pp

Borders are more than lines on paper.

As a local organizer, activist and scholar, Harsh Walia demonstrates in her passionately felt, deeply researched and narrowly reasoned new book, Border and Rule, that borders can serve as deadly complex mechanisms of imperialism, colonialism, racism. , sexism and class exploitation.

They work to divide workers and undermine international solidarity, while inscribing maps of privilege and oppression on the face of the long-suffering Earth.

And yet, in general discussions, borders are only called into question when heartbreaking images of migrant children huddling miserably in enclosures on the US border or drowning on the shores of the Mediterranean inspire brief spasms of self-righteousness. outrage and pity among the comfortable observers on the “right side” of the borders.


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Walia, who has spent much of her adult life doing the hard work of organizing solidarity activities and saving the lives of people threatened with deportation to the dangers they flee, is understandably dismissive of these liberal responses. . She points out that centuries of imperial conquest, colonial occupation and sexist and racist segmentation of the workforce paved the way for the current global crisis, which has seen over 80 million of our sisters and brothers driven out of the country. home last year, according to the United Nations, while hundreds of millions more have been forced to migrate due to climatic disasters, poverty and famine. Walia convincingly argues that such disasters are not so much ‘natural’ as created by economic and social relations (i.e. predatory and racialized capitalism and a world order designed to serve the needs of the rich rather than the needs of the rest of us).


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Walia’s analysis is dense and complex, and his language is sometimes overloaded with abstraction. But even where his thought is difficult, it is still worth the time it takes to grasp it.

This is a remarkable book that reflects a lifetime of activism and thoughtfulness on the part of the author – Walia has been in the news lately, resigning as Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. after a controversial article on social media about an arson in several Catholic churches. However, this book is rich in lessons for all of us.

Its main argument, that “a political and economic system which treats the land as a commodity, the indigenous peoples as a burden, race as a principle of social organization, the care of women as worthless, the workers as exploitable, the climate refugees as consumables and the entire planet as a sacrifice zone must be dismantled, ”will challenge and inspire readers.

Highly recommended.

Tom Sandborn crossed a border to live in Vancouver in 1967. He appreciates your comments and history advice at [email protected]

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