May 21, 2019

Borders Are a Modern Invention

“It’s not too much to say that the movement of peoples across borders has been a pressing political concern recently, both in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. That conversation is so prevalent now that it’s easy to think of this conversation as inevitable, immutable. The idea of the “nation” is one that’s bounded – it begins and it ends. We recognize that the limits/ borders of the nation might shift over time but out there somewhere is a line that separates “us” from “them.” And how people draw those borders effects how we even define “us” and “them” – how, or even if, “they” can become “us.”

But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, throughout the period known as the European Middle Ages, there were no borders at all.

Most often when we picture the Middle Ages in our head, a map like the one above comes to mind. It looks like maps we draw of our own world – differently-shaded areas showing different political entities, with nice, solid black lines showing where one thing ended and another began. But the reality of the past was much messier.

People traveled constantly throughout the Middle Ages. Their mental world was large and was always more than just their locality. Merchants, such as the Jewish author Benjamin of Tudela, carried goods throughout the Mediterranean. Pilgrims, such as the Iberian Muslim Ibn Jubayr and the Frankish Christian Bernard the Monk, traveled thousands of miles back and forth between Islamic and Christian lands. Monks became refugees from Viking attacks, sometimes permanently settling in new locations for centuries.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."

"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."

"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."

"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"

"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."

"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."

"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."

"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"

"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."

"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."

" represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."

"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."