Cover of Building Walls, Constructing Identities by Marie-Eve Loiselle
Building Walls, Constructing Identities
Legal Discourse and the Creation of National Borders
Marie-Eve Loiselle

November 2024
264 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503640610



Despite growing political, social, and economic integration between countries over the last two decades, states have erected walls at their borders at a pace unmatched in history. Nonetheless, legal scholarship on the phenomenon of walling is sparse, as the walls are seen as existing independently of the law. Building Walls, Constructing Identities uses the U.S.-Mexico border wall as a frame to provide a new understanding of the relationship between the law and wall building.

Increasingly, law is recognized as emerging from whatever knowledge is privileged in a given context, and that it is legislated by people with cultural biases. In other words, it is never a neutral set of rules, just as walls are never neutral structures. Marie-Eve Loiselle expands on this trend, arguing that the dynamic interaction between law and wall-building reveals insights about space, belonging, and national identities. Informed by two episodes of wall-building in American history—the Act of August 19, 1935, and the Secure Fence Act of 2006—the book identifies two discursive processes by which the law and the wall come together to communicate legal knowledge about territorial and cultural limits.

About the author

Marie-Eve Loiselle is a Lecturer at Macquarie Law School.

"Marie-Eve Loiselle embeds the enduring fantasy of a wall between the US and Mexico in a rich inlay of contexts, historical, cultural, and material. Building Walls, Constructing Identities situates recent efforts in a much longer history than is often supposed, and demonstrates how they are expressive of anxieties and performative of identities. Her analysis includes close readings of the undercurrents and ideologies hidden in legal texts, parliamentary debates, and archives. But she also reminds us that, whether in the US or around the world, these walls literally embody the state. Their imposing physical presence and powerful affective charge transform the lives of all those who dwell in their shadow. In writing that is lucid and compelling throughout, Loiselle brings an engrossing range of interdisciplinary materials to bear on a controversial global phenomenon. Hers is an exciting and imaginative contribution to scholarship on an important issue."

—Desmond Manderson, Australian National University

"Beautifully written and richly documented, this book challenges the conventional narrative about the US-Mexico border in formative ways. It does so by revisiting the timeline of the authorization to build the border wall, reinterpreting the function of the wall as a marker of national identity, and reinscribing spatiality into the legal analysis of regimes of border control. With immigration high on the agenda in every corner of the world, this book offers a profound guide to exposing injustices hidden in plain sight."

—Ayelet Shachar, author of The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality