|Abstract||If you have been driving in Europe recently, you must have had that strange feeling. You see a sign that says ‘Deutschland’, or ‘France’, or ‘España’, and just drive through. No customs barrier, no passport control—just a sign. You say ‘Ah!’ and carry on; the sign could be a hundred yards further and it would make no difference. Yet, by crossing that line you enter a different world-district, magically separated from its surroundings—you enter a region where people suddenly speak another language, rely on their own authorities, share a different heritage, and struggle to solve their problems and to improve the quality of their common life. The line is there, even if you don’t see it. That sign conceals a long history, perhaps even a thread of blood, though all you see today is a spread of asphalt, souvenir shops, motels, gas stations, abandoned customs houses. It is more difficult to get that feeling as you drive across the United States of America. Most drivers feel nothing at all as they pass the border between Wyoming and Idaho, a line whose embarrassing geometric straightness says very little about its history (or says it all). Yet even here there are differences, and Idahoans are proud of their license plates just as Wyomingites are proud of their own. Such is the magic of boundary lines: they are thin, yet powerful; they separate, and thereby unite; they are invisible, yet a lot depends on them, including one’s sense of belongingness to a country, a people, a place; they are abstract, in a way, yet people take them seriously and some states expend huge sums of money and sacrifice their soldier’s lives to protect them, or to re-draw them properly. (Kashmir is one example where the drawing of boundaries—even the precise drawing of the Line of Control—is still central to the conflict.).|
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