Walled States, Waning Sovereignty

Walled States, Waning Sovereignty Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

National as Personal Sovereignty (Symbol)

In the second half of Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, Brown explores how people identify with the nation-state and in turn see the need to protect the borders of the nation as identical to the need to protect their own body. In this way, the nation-state becomes a symbol for the body, and the sovereignty of the state is a symbol for the autonomy of the body. Brown explains:

[T]he subject may identify with the attenuated potency of the state occasioned by declining sovereignty and seek measures that restore this potency. Here, the nation-state’s vulnerability and unboundedness, permeability and violation, are felt as the subject’s own. (108)

It is this kind of symbolic identification that makes subjects desire walls, according to Brown. They see violations of the states as violations of their own body, and vice versa. Walling is a way of protecting the state, and thus symbolically protecting the self.

Allegories of Defense

Related to the symbolism of walling the state in order to symbolically imagine the sovereignty of both the self and the nation, Brown explores different allegories of what people think walls are protecting against. For instance:

The relation of nation-state walls to checkpoints, viruses, and prophylaxes, to the dissemination of political power in networked bodies, and to security apparatuses in homes, vehicles, schools, and airports is an important first clue to understanding both the state and subject investments generating wall-building today. (81)

If the state is a symbol of the self, and therefore the borders of the nation need to be protected from invasion in the same way a body should be protected from violation, then a number of further symbolisms are involved. Defending the nation from immigrants is an allegory for defending the body from a virus. So, too, is protecting an airport an allegory for protecting the state. In the system of identifications people make in their fantasies, all sorts of threats are related to one another, and walling the state is a fantasy of protecting against all those threats at once.