Introduction: Borders, Informality, International Trade and Customs

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This special issue deals with the “informal” cross-border trade in goods. Trading goods is an original human activity that precedes borders (Renfrew 1969). With the rise of nation-stateswith demarcated political boundaries, trade that crosses borders became regulated by government institutions such as Customs, with tariffs, quotas, or outright prohibitions. While borders are perhaps not quite “the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile” (Foucault 1970, 70), they are a formal structure that places less flexibility on trade activities.Focusing on informality thus provided an opportunity to reflect on the governance of international trade, which has been marked by increasing consolidation of its rules in the last decades. Any paper that discusses informality must confront its definition. Informality can escape state control, and researchers do not necessarily want to be similarly outflanked. This introduction follows two objectives: i) to consider a set of questions addressed to and byborder control services, and ii) to examine what the formal / informal pattern applied to cross-border trade brings to the episteme of the border. A final section presents the different articles of this issue by connecting them to the framework developed in the two previous sections.


This is an Author Accepted Manuscript of an Article by Cantens, Thomas; Ireland, Robert; Raballand, Gael Introduction © World Bank, published in the Journal of Borderlands Studies30(3) 2015-12-16. License CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 IGO.


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