Geopolitics of the usa

Geopolitics of the usa

Geopolitics of the United States What is geopolitics ? Towards a definition of geopolitics. Geopolitics is the study of the interactions between the different actors on a territory and trying to see how these actors participate in the shaping (formation) of this territory: the civil society, the state (through its policies), multi/transnational companies or supranational institutions such as the United Nations. Geopolitics encompasses (comprend) a lot of different spheres – political, economical, demographic, military or even cultural – and applies to different geographical scales – regional, national, and international.

When talking about U. S geopolitics, one cannot but mention the notion of « hyperpower ». It is a fairly recent term that was first used by an American political commentator, Peregrine Worsthorne, in 1991 and popularized by the French Foreign Minister between 1997 and 2002 in the late 90s, Hubert Vedrine. It was felt at the time that a new expression was needed to describe the new position of the US, that of the sole superpower, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The United States seems today to dominate the rest of the world, establishing some kind of unbalanced world dynamics between a core / center and the other territories being merely peripheries. 1/ The Formation

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of the National Territory A/ Colonial Territories It must be remembered that before being a national territory, the area we are looking at was the place of clashes between different European powers and Indigenous people (Native Americans) who had been living there for centuries.

The different colonial powers considered the place as extensions of their own national spaces, territories where they could expand their influence: Europe was then the core; colonies were peripheries that worked for the benefits of the core. The present territory of the United States was mainly under the domination of the French and the British, but the Spanish and the Russians were also present. (map). It turned out that the French mainly sought to expand their economical influence, establishing alliances with different Native American tribes to get their hands on fur trade for instance.

The French colonization developed through forts and trading posts spreading across a vast territory (map) ; it was mainly an exploitation colonization. VS The British, on the other hand, established a settler colonization: started early on to populate lands they perceived as « virgin » since they were « misused » (explain) by Native Americans. These lands served as an outlet for groups of Protestants who fled persecution and appeared as an opportunity for thousands of people seeking a better life (indentured servants). The British quickly outnumbered the French in the 13 colonies: late 17th C. : a few hundred thousand . a century later : about 4 million The French and Indian War (1756-1763) – Guerre des 7 ans- confirms the British domination (map). B/ Independence: National Expansion can start « Territory » and « land » played a great part in the growing tensions between the 13 colonies and the British Crown: the Royal Proclamation of 1763 (explain) was seen as an infringement of the settlers’ freedom. The colonies started to question their dependent status, in other words they refused to be a « periphery » anymore.

When the United States gained their independence in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain lost all the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi. The United States were a nation now: the national territorial construction could start. Whether through negotiations or wars, the westward expansion was on the move. – Negotiations: Louisiana Purchase from France (1803), Florida from Spain (1819), Oregon: partition along the 49th parallel with Britain (1846), and Alaska from Russia (1867). – Wars: New Mexico and California (war with Mexico) in 1848. Texas (secedes from Mexico before joining the Union in 1845). The United States needed at the time to secure its newly acquired independence: it had to impose itself among the colonial powers and to allow its ever growing population to settle freely on new lands. The westward expansion enabled the United States to answer both needs. As new territories were acquired, settlers moved to these territories, and as they moved they increased the demographic weight – and thus the actual power – of the United States. A new doctrine, emerging in the 1840’s, gave a moral sanction to the movement: Manifest Destiny.

It expresses the belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Stemming from the Puritan belief in the « New World » being the place where the « chosen people » could establish and be an example to the world, Manifest Destiny equated « the chosen people » with the Americans who then had the « divine mission » to expand the values of its newly founded republic: values based on Puritan ethics (individualism and work) and on a democratic form of government. C/ Acquisition and Control Acquiring a territory is quite different from actually controlling a territory.

You may claim the possession of a territory (ex: Louisiana) yet not being the main source of power on that same territory. The American westward expansion followed these two stages: – Acquiring a territory from another sovereign (through negotiation or war) – Getting control over that territory and organizing it. When you acquire a territory, you recognize the existence of another sovereign. There were different sovereign entities at the time: colonial powers (Britain, France, Spain, and Russia), Mexico (same position as US): got its independence and had to assert its authority, and Native American tribes.

We can only notice (map) that the United States, as a new nation, mainly acquired land from the first two categories. Negotiations with Indian tribes mostly occurred in the second stage, as if there was a hierarchy of sovereigns, thus giving less credit to Indian ownership of the land. (Right of discovery and Terra Nullius). Yet the United States had to deal with Indian tribes as it proved that, once it had acquired new territories, it was not that easy to control them. The United States first carried on the policy that had been started by the different European powers: that is the treaty policy.

More than 3OO treaties were entered that way between the US and different tribes, most of which included land cession from the Indians. Many Native Americans were also removed from the East to the West: Indian Removal in the 1830s and Indian Territory. As the settlers carried on moving west, removal was not enough: creation of reservations. These policies were challenged and a lot of wars were fought until the end of the 19th C. 1890 (Wounded Knee) is often given as the date for the end of the « Indian wars ».

The corollary to Indigenous territorial dispossession was the organization of these territories through the creation and admission of new states within the union. Northwest Ordinance (1787) organized the newly acquired territory after the War of Independence (settlers had been prevented from establishing there: rushed there, settle the other states’ claims: it was urgent). First a territory then set the process for statehood: when 60,000 people in a given division + political organization. Throughout the 19th C. the westward expansion thus combined acquisition + control from Native tribes + organization through statehood.

Last states: NM and Arizona in 1917 (they were territories before + Alaska and Hawaii in 1959). By the late 19th C. , the United States possessed present-day territory and controlled it. 2/ Power and the US National Territory Having seen how US present-day territory was acquired and controlled, we can now move on to examine power dynamics on that territory. Two main factors are to be considered when dealing with power: political and economical power. We will look at how these two elements interact in shaping a particular US power geography.

Keeping in mind that the US is a federal nation: decentralized: system with several places of power at the local level (counties), then state level and federal level. Local level is very important in the US: the place where the community, the base of society, organizes. Yet we will deal mainly with the national dynamics. A/ the North-East megalopolis The term « megalopolis » refers to a vast urban complex made up of several neighbouring cities that are linked together by infrastructures and exchanges resulting from the existing activities. « Megalopolis » was primarily used in 1961 by J.

Gottmann to specifically refer to the urban concentration of the North-East Coast of the United States that links Boston to Washington, spreading over 1,000 kms and gathering more than 45 million people, that is 2/3 of the population. It is also named « Boswash » and comprises: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Historically, it has always been the center of the United States: place where the 3 branches of federal power established and where European immigrants arrived: huge economical growth. Thus, the heart of US political and economical decision making : long with federal agencies, headquarters of multinationals, stock exchange, most famous universities and research centers, media etc…. Also an international influence with the presence of international institutions and organisations. Let us look more closely at Washington DC : what makes W a particular city in the United States ? built in 1800 (quite late): an utopia and created out of nothing as a symbol of the greatness of the new republic and of its founding values : compromise between the North and the South (put an end to the rivalries between the cities in New England v. he South), thus creating a neutral place, concentration of decision making power, and original planning and architecture choices. Though, in the beginning: little economical opportunity. Today: technological and cultural pole (universities and museums) and still has a particular political status: its citizens have no voting representation in Congress. B/ the Empty Interior: a relative emptiness? It is a vast area, population is scarce and few big cities with harsh geographical conditions: the Great Plains and Mountains. Yet the immensity can turn itself into an important resource: The richness of the subsoil: a lot energetic resources are located primarily in that territory: coal, oil, uranium. ? Renewable energies: especially on the Great Plains, opportunities to develop wind energy (has started on Indian reservations). ? The land itself as a resource: the place for agriculture and ranching: with all this land and a scarce population, these activities could develop around two logics: extensive exploitation and specialization. Ranching (especially in the West) and belts (more in the North): Wheat, Soy, corn.

Agriculture in the United States is, above all, market oriented: the aim is to produce a maximum of products at the lowest price possible to be sold on the national market first, and on the international market. It is interesting to see that within the « empty interior », agricultural activities developed mainly near railroads and rivers, so that the products could easily be sent to markets. ? The immensity is also used to develop tourism, especially through the creation of National Parks. Nature there appears as preserved and quite « unspoiled » by human beings.

There are 57 parks in the United States, most of them being situated in the « Empty Interior ». In 1997, they attracted 65 millions of visitors. The oldest: the Yellowstone (1878): spreads over 8 983 km2 and has about 3 million visitors each year. ? Attraction of the suburbs and the small cities: rural communities represent in the US the democratic ideal, far from the turmoil and the negative impacts of urban life. This idea comes from the 19th century transformation of the notion of Nature (Transcendentalists and Protestant vision of the family): nature, contrary to the old savage wilderness, becomes a desirable environment. 0th Century: it turned out that the ideal place for living became the individual house not too far from nature. Some cities in the area correspond to the ideal and attract people especially from the middle class: Boulder. Despite all these ways of transforming emptiness into a resource, one must recognize that the « Empty Interior » remains a periphery: as we saw, agriculture is mainly oriented towards markets: it is thus dependant on the national and international demands. C/ Reshaping of the economic landscape in the last 30 years. Cultural Roots of the American capitalist model a. Puritan ethics : US capitalism is deeply entrenched in a society where religion plays an important role. The Protestant ethics was instrumental in the shaping of a particular type of capitalism. Work ethics: idleness is a sin and only work enables men to redeem themselves, thus hard work is of prime importance – link with salvation. If you work hard, you will be rich: material wealth is perceived as the result of hard work, God’s reward. Work is equated with the betterment of mankind: thus leading to progress.

Capitalism is thus characterized by a tendency to always look for new improvements and innovation. b. The self made man: American capitalism also developed in a country that had had the « courage » to separate from the British Crown, its « mother land », thus a country that had to fight for its existence and to find on its own options to secure their independence: establishment of democracy and expansion. American citizens, during that process, had to show the same courage as their nation: moving west, they were to fight against the wilderness to bringing civilization: democracy and private ownership.

In that context the myth of the self made man appeared, emphasizing courage, individualism, and innovation. « Businessmen » were soon to replace « frontier men » as the embodiment of that myth. c. US capitalism is also defined as being market oriented, contrary to countries like France or Italy that developed state capitalist models : in which the state intervenes to make sure certain services are provided to the whole population : public services. In the US, these services appear as any other goods: they belong to the sphere of the private sector and should enable companies to make profits. . This market oriented model goes hand in hand with competition and concentration: Competition is seen as a way to eliminate the least competitive companies, thus leaving the best ones to offer consumers the best products at the lowest price. Concentration is the result of US capitalism: the ever expanding companies. ( Crisis and emergence of new places of power In the 1980s, within the context of globalisation, the US capitalist model proved to be lacking competitiveness: new countries arrived on the international scene (Japan, UE) and destabilized the US system.

The US were fast to find solutions though and with the evolution of certain sectors and the development of new ones, new places of power appeared within US territory. a. The Transformation of traditional industries I will deal more specifically with steel and car industries that were particularly hit by the crisis and same location. These two sectors followed more or less the same patterns of mutation: respecialization and deconcentration of the production. Respecialization was for instance General Motors separating itself from its activities in electronics and defence.

Deconcentration of the production had a direct impact on the reshaping of US economical landscape: a lot of companies relocated or subcontracted with other companies in areas where the labour is cheaper and where unions are less influential: along the Mexican frontier and in the Old South. (map) b. The rise of high technology As we saw earlier, innovation is deeply rooted in US capitalist model: research is an integral part of the economical sphere. By emphasizing innovation, the US can remain in the forefront of high tech economy and gain competitiveness. Computer and electronics: companies that emerged in the 1960s located in old industrial belt (north east coast and Great lakes). Like traditional industries: subcontracted in other areas yet headquarters remain in the East: IBM (NY), General Electric (Fairfield, Conn) or Motorola (Chicago). New companies set up in the Old South (industrial revival – Atlanta) but above all in California, usually concentrating in the same area, developing huge high tech poles like the Silicon Valley. (map) ° Aeronautics and space industry

Sectors that went through a thorough reorganization in the 1990s with a lot of Mergers and Acquisitions: great concentration, today led by 3 companies: Lockheed, Boeing and Hughes (satellites). These companies are spread throughout the US: Boeing mainly in Seattle but has a lot of other sites that are specialized in certain products. These sites are mainly to be found in the Sun Belt and a few big cities (Denver for and Colorado Springs for Lockheed). These sectors are linked with arms industry: 3 biggest companies: Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

Sometimes the Sun Belt is referred to as the Gun Belt. ° Culture industries Refers to all the activities linked with the commercial exploitation of artistic creation: movies, music, publishing, video games… A growing market: global turnover from 80 billion dollars in 1980 to 380 billion in 1998. Dominated by a few companies: AOL-Time Warner, Disney-ABC, and Viacom-CBS. The recent economical changes have participated in reshaping the territorial dynamics of the US in terms of power: the Sun Belt, that appeared as a periphery seems to gain ever more weight.

If we can talk of a balancing in the economical sphere, the North-East still dominates the territory as far as political power is concerned. This is reinforced by the fact that many company headquarters are still located in that area: financial decisions remain there. 3/ Territory and Population in the US How do certain characteristics of the American population shape territorial dynamics within the US? There are today approximately 300 million people in the US and the first obvious characteristics of that population is that it is not equally spread across the territory and that it is mainly urban. 79 % of he population is urban. A/ An Urban population Historically speaking, the urbanization of the US was linked with immigration and the rise of capitalism (explain). Even if farmers were an important factor in the expansionist movement (explain), they only represent today 2% of the 21% of rural population: demographic empty interior. The distribution of the population is still today largely explained by the dynamics of power of which we talked about in the previous part: certain areas holding economical and political power being more attractive. We can superimpose both maps: they will more or less correspond.

Today’s internal migrations thus favor these same areas : – African American had widely left the traditional south in the 1950s to find jobs in the North, since the 1980s there is a return movement: Old South and Sun Belt. – Movement of the retired people to go towards the Sun Belt – Urban sprawl: extension of cities creating ever increasing suburbs: correspond to the American way of life. From 1970 to 1990, Atlanta grew by 161% and Tampa (Florida) by 398%. In 1970, for the first time, the suburban population exceeded the actual city population: centers.

The US urban space, most populated area in the US, evolved in the last decades. : – as the urban sprawl carried on : no more centers / suburbs, but an urban organization which is more scattered with city centers being only one center among others : creation of edge cities or urban villages : reconcentration of economic activities usually within 100 km from the original center : along highways : highway corridors like the Tech Area Center south of Denver ; centers built around shopping malls : Costa Mesa, about 30 miles south east of Los Angeles, sometimes leading to new towns. The counterpart: crisis of the old inner cities: with most activities being shifted to these edge cities: degradation of houses, crime, low quality public services and industrial wasteland. Recently, there has been a huge effort to try and revitalize these areas: fight against criminality and poverty, attract investment, emphasize the cultural / historic advantages of these places etc… Some cities saw a recent population growth: New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. B/ Class and Ethnicity as important elements of US territorial dynamics (map)

We said that violence developed in the inner cities: with the deterioration of these areas, the middle-class left and lower classes remained, often organized along ethnical criteria. The distribution of the population mirrors the social disparities that exist within the US today; it is an example of the « barriers » that are built between different communities. When talking about « communities », one must understand that conflicting dynamics are entangled in the process of community building: individuals can choose to cluster and to organize along certain common criteria: ex. mmigrants, when they arrive in the US, tend to establish in the same areas (explain). This aspect of « community » is very important in the US history and tradition: community, as the result of people’s free will –democracy- was the base of colonial organization: from the local. On the one hand, an inclusive movement, button the other hand, when you organize in communities, you also decide who can be included in the community, thus excluding others: both inclusion and exclusion happen. The organization of the US territory along class and ethnic lines reflects these two dynamics. Reservations are a good example: altogether NA represent 1% of the population and their land represents 2. 3% of US territory, mainly in the West. Inherent paradox in the existence of the reservations: they were set for the use of Indian people in compensation for the loss of their land, thus separating Indians from non-Indians –link with segregation. Yet, reservations are today the only guaranty of the political existence of Indian tribes: without these territories, they no longer exist as politically distinct entities.

Direct link between Indian minorities and territory: they need that territorial distinction so that they are not like any other minority: differing culturally. Even if many Native Americans do not live on these lands (yet tribal affiliation). One last thing to say about these « separated » places: they usually are places of great poverty and little economic activity. ( The opposition between inner cities and suburbs: crisis of centers, usually the people who remained in the centers came both from minorities (especially African-American and Hispanics) and poor background hile the richer moved out to the suburbs. A pattern that is also followed by people coming from an ethnic minority but from the middle-class: tendency to establish within « ethnic suburban areas ». In that context, the « frontiers » between the communities are very strong. This is reinforced by two new elements: hyper ghettoes and a tendency to self-confinement. The crisis of city centers led to the emergence of big spaces that are socially homogeneous: poor classes and ethnically heterogeneous: different ethnic communities, sharing the same area.

Notion of hyper ghetto: goes beyond the distinction of ethnic background while being socially determined. Within that context: competition between the different communities for the scarce resources, and thus: crime, violence, insecurity, and repression. The decrease of public services (public transportation, health, education … ) went hand in hand with the increase of repression: more police officers and police control.

At the same time, phenomenon of self-confinement, symbolized by the growth of gated communities: individual houses or buildings usually surrounded by fences and with a controlled access. The movement started in the Sun Belt, within the richest categories; it spread to the rest of the American society. For instance, within the 5 counties that comprise Los Angeles, there are 191 gated communities from Leisure World: minimum age 55 to Hispanic and Asian communities: a way for individuals who have fairly succeeded to distanciate from the rest of the community.

Only areas that are mainly African-American do not have these gated communities. The phenomenon clearly insists on a clear separation between communities, whether based on class or ethnic background, often combining the two. Reinforced by the shrinking of public space: in between there is an intermediate space in which access can be restricted or controlled: certain malls near these communities in which the access of certain categories of people is strongly discouraged (security guards, resident associations and organizations).

We can thus talk about segregation de facto which leads to ethnic tensions. Tensions that are reinforced by the current debate on immigration. C/ Territory and Immigration Immigration has a strong impact on a territory since it deeply changes the economical, ethnical, and cultural structures of a country, especially the United States which, for the last centuries has been the most attractive pole in the world. US history is also linked with immigration, since the nation was able to exist through the coming of European settlers in the « New World ».

After US independence, immigration kept on increasing: the new nation could use that flow of immigrants in the building of the new nation but, as the origin if immigrants shifted, it also had to establish criteria for entry, feeling that immigration could « threaten » US identity. ( Immigration: driving force of US history and economy 3 stages in the history of US immigration: – from 1820 to 1860 : the period of expansion : few regulations – from 1870 to 1930 : mass European migration, beginning of regulation from the end of WWII (especially after 1960) : immigration boom During each of these stages, immigration participated in the economical dynamics of the country: – First stage: link with the westward expansion: demographical weight meant more political power and thus control of the new territories. Ex: Oregon trail. Pushing the Frontier westward, thus bringing civilization to the west: Manifest Destiny. At the same time, forced immigration in the shape of slavery continued and shaped the economy of the South. Second stage: immigration stopped for some time during the Civil War and started again in the 1860s: European mass immigration answered to the industrial needs of the US within the context of the industrial growth: peak in 1907 when 1. 3 million people entered the US through Ellis Island. – Third stage: Another pause during the 2 world wars then started again and boomed during the1960s. Emigration countries changed: mainly American countries, that are close geographically speaking and historical relationship, and Asian countries. Between 1989 and 1992: nearly 5. 5 million people entered the US (without considering illegal immigration).

This is where we are now, and still today, immigration is of the utmost importance in US economy : + The question of pensions: within the context of a population that is getting older, immigration enables the country to maintain a balance between the active / retired population and thus not to suffer a pension crisis. + With the practice of the brain drain, thus encouraging highly-qualified individuals to immigrate, US economy remains on the forefront of innovation: works in favour of US competitiveness (especially since few American students seem to go for scientific studies). On the contrary, the arrival of cheap labour, ready to work in any conditions, also participates in the maintaining of US economy « by the bottom». Illegal immigration is closely linked with that characteristic of US legal immigration: cheap labour = competitiveness. ( Immigration and « national identity » The instrumental role of immigration in US economy explains why the federal government has, most of the time, favoured few restrictions.

Yet, immigration also goes hand in hand with the notion of national identity: immigrants may be perceived as people who « threaten » this identity since they are different, mainly culturally different. This led to more restrictive policies and to ethnic tensions. The reaction is not a new phenomenon: already in the late 19th Century: a lot of Chinese people arrived in the late 1840s to participate in the gold rushes in California or Oregon: link with the Pacific Coast: long existing economical activity between Asia and the North West.

They were first quite well accepted, participating in the expansion effort, yet, as gold became scarcer and economic situation suffered from the Civil War, they started to be accused of unfair competition : a group like the Supreme Order of Caucasians (1876 in California) was organized around the desire to run the Chinese out of the US : political pressure led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 : first federal law that restricts immigration based on nationality (tradition of exclusion of convicts or lunatics). See in the name of the organization: « Caucasian ».

Idea that the « true » Americans are the Caucasians, or the WASPS: growth of the Nativist Movement. As far as immigration is concerned, they established a distinction between the « old immigration »: mostly people from western and northern Europe and the « new immigration »: comprising the people of the second wave, thus Asian people but also people from eastern and southern Europe, and the Irish (who were associated with southern Europeans: Celtic and catholic). These nativist theories ended up having an impact on immigration policy in the 1920s when quotas were established based on nationality.

The quotas lasted until 1965, with the adoption of the Immigration and Nationality Act which forbids any discrimination based on race, sex, or nation in the realm of immigration. The law opened the door to new sources of immigration: Asian and American people, mainly South America. This led to the growth of population diversity: diverse minorities and the emergence of the Hispanics as the first minority (even before African-Americans in terms of number): geographically concentrated in the South West.

The evolution of the population composition – mainly due to immigration trends: place of origin + demographic weight – had mainly two consequences in the last two decades: – the rise of an anti-Hispanic feeling – More control on borders (reinforced by the 9/11 and the ongoing « war on terrorism »). 4/ Between Inclusion and Exclusion: the Mexican-American Border The Mexican-American border was finally set up in the mid 1840s: Texas joining the Union in 1845 and end of the war with Mexico in 1848.

The border can be seen both as a line, dividing two national territories, thus setting the difference between « we » and »they », « here » and « the other side », thus a place which crystallizes tensions between these two « sides ». It can also be seen as a territory in itself, not simply a line but a place with its own dynamics, both internal and external : it is a place that exists on its own in relation with external territories, here the US and Mexico but also the rest of the world within the globalization context. A/ The Border as a dynamic center.

It is one of the most dynamic borders in the world in terms of flows, exchanges and economic activities: attractive pole on both sides of the actual division. On the north: Sun Belt / in the South: population growth: in 1950 the Border States comprised 2. 5 million people, in 2000: 17 million. If the South west in the US is an attractive area, the population there is less concentrated in the border cities than in Mexico: more spread. Of course another movement going from the South towards the North and actually crossing the border while remaining in the border egion : most immigrants remain there, though a lot go to urban centers elsewhere. The demographic boom is the result of the development of interdependent economies: both sides of the border are involved in the process. – Mainly started to develop in the 1940s: when the US needed labour to counteract the shortage due to WWII : about 5 million agricultural workers – braceros- thus crossed the border (fruit picking). The program was ended in 1964 to stop the emergence of a political conscience – mainly through unions- among the Hispanic community. Another partnership was launched in the 1960s that led to the system of maquiladoras: the US would encourage the setting up of plants in Mexico – tax exemption, duty free in a 20km zone – would work for US companies on the other side of the border: for the US, it meant that the workers would remain in Mexico – would not encourage the growth of unions – while for Mexico it was a way of developing a marginalized area that was hit by the end of the bracero program.

Growth in 1981 : 605 plants with 130,000 workers ; in 2005 : 2811 plants employing 1,200,000 people. As a symbol of the system, twin plants, were set up, attracting people and leading to twin cities : Tijuana-San Diego ; Mexicali-Calexico ; Nogales-Nogales ; Cuidad Juarez-El Paso ; Ojinaga-Presidio ; Cuidad Acuna-Del Rio ; Piedras Negras-Eagle Pass, Nuevo Laredo-Laredo ; Reynosa-Hidalgo/Mc Allen ; and Matamoros-Brownsville. Growth of cross-border tourism: going in both ways as people cross the border o buy cheaper goods. An increasing daily flow. The territory is thus economically integrated: has its own economical interests that may differ from other national « interests ». For instance, Mexican visitors account for 65% of retail sales in Nogales US. Recent laws tightening control on the border do not benefit the city. The economies on both sides are interdependent, YET, we can notice an imbalanced system that crystallizes the gap between the North and the South.

A demographic imbalance between the twin cities: Mexico: 190,000 people ? 20,000 people in Nogales US. Cities in the south are overcrowded. The lack of balance can also be seen in the division of labour between twin plants : those in the north take care of supervision and management while those in the south are restricted to mostly assembling jobs, lower wages : a core/periphery relation. Income disparity leads, above overcrowding, to the growth of poverty and crime while the goods are consumed on the other side of the border.

Their activity depends on decisions taken on the other side of the border which means a fragile situation: as we can see today, within the globalization context, several companies chose to relocate in other parts of the world to get even cheaper labour (China). While the goods end up on the American market, economic activities in the border region do not really participate in the economic development of Mexico as a whole.

A lot of Mexican people from Chiapas or Oaxaca still move to the North or cross the border: immigrants in the US send money to their family in Mexico: an important source of revenue for the country: each year between 10 and 14 billion dollars. Poor in the US, these people are rich compared to many in Mexico. Paradox: some people in Mexico depend more on money coming from the US than on economical activities developed in their own country. So: economically dynamic, integrated yet imbalanced. B/ the rise of a new « culture » and the backlash

Economy is instrumental in the organization of the Mexican-American border region; another important element is the development of a particular culture combining aspects of Hispanic, Indian and US culture. Joel Garreau (American journalist) created the concept of « Mexamerica » to refer to this plural identity. The « mexamerican » culture has now spread across the US and has become a major element of the South West identity  around language (bilingual programs in schools, the rise of « spanglish »… but also food or art (movies, music and painting : Santa Fe) that participated in the forging of myths and symbols : calaveras, « our lady of Guadelupe », la « raza » and themes of resistance, the frontier man : from the one pushing the frontier westward to the man crossing the border illegally and going north… If some American people accept the evolution and the rise of the mexamerican culture as an enriching process, creating a territory within the US that is characterized, among other things, by its mixed culture, others reject it and perceive it as a threat to the American identity which is not to e mixed. The emergence of the Latinos – and especially the Mexicans – as the first minority in the US, getting more and more power especially in the Border States led to a backlash and the rise of a xenophobic movement which stresses the « contamination » coming from a culture that differs from the Anglo-protestant model: Catholicism, unions, pride in Indian heritage… Sometimes referred as « interior enemies ». A fear of hispanization which is reinforced by the association of Latinos with drug traffic and illegal immigration. C/ Making the border safe

The geographical location of the Mexican-American border explains why, traditionally, it has been rather an open border: mainly surrounded by deserts. With the development of the maquiladoras and the 1965 law on immigration, the area became an attractive pole: the entry to the North, a place that mirrors and magnifies the excesses associated with the rich / poor dichotomy: tensions exacerbated. Illegal immigration started in the 1960s, and has kept on increasing since (more than 1 million people are arrested by the patrol each year).

At the same time, drug traffic also increased – strong demand in the North – with drug cartels being today strongly established on both sides of the border. The movement towards securing the border on the American side aims at tapering these two phenomena. It started in the 1990s with the establishment of a fence in certain strategic places: operation Gatekeeper in California in 1993 (San Diego), Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas in 1994 (El

Paso), and Operation Safeguard in Arizona in 1999. The fence – la barda – is actually not a continuous fence: the rest of the border is controlled by a patrol – Border patrol – (its number keeps on increasing), high-tech cameras, motion and other electronic sensors, and militia: private groups organized by citizens to secure the border: ex the « Border Fence Project ». Despite these measures, there are still places along the 3,000 kms that are not secured: hard to do so in the desert.

The 9/11 had a direct impact on the tightening control of the border: multiplication of private militia, and the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (2005) and the Secure Fence Act (2006) both increased the number of agents of the border patrol and call for the construction of a longer fence. They also make it harder for those who have managed to cross the border by criminalizing illegal entry and adding new grounds for exclusion and deportation.

The Mexican-American border represents a first layer of American integration within the international sphere: a place which is quite open economically speaking but that turns out to benefit mostly to the US. On the other hand, a place that is more and more controlled when it comes to elements that do not work in favour of the US: illegal immigration and drugs. A tendency to define the rest of the region in their own terms and according to their own interests. A tendency that seems to extend to the rest of the world and which is reinforced by their dominant position.