Floating sand snake

25 Apr 2009 | 617 words | desert migration border united states mexico

For some reason this photo had escaped my attention when i first viewed it back in march on the big picture’s edition covering the drug war in mexico. fortunately it’s animal-like beauty did catch Bryan Finoki’s eye over at subtopia, who calls it the sand dragon:

What looks like some creature from a science fiction movie is actually part of the border fence that is being erected by the US along the border with Mexico. This particular stretch covering 7 miles of in Imperial [sic!] County in California is called the floating fence. The fence is constructed to float on top of the sand dunes that cover the south eastern part of Imperial County:

[US Border Patrol] Agent Michael Espinoza said unlike other border fences, this one moves. “It’s just amazing, the concept of a floating fence here in the sand dunes that can just be picked up and settled back down,” Espinoza said. […] The concept is simple. As sand builds up along its edges, sections of fence can be lifted by a machine and placed back on top of the sand, so the fence never loses its height. “I personally have never seen a fence like this before,” Espinoza said. [KYMA Local News ]

What is probably intreagues me most about this shape shifting monster of steel is the fact that by the very nature of its design it will later the contours of the border between mexico and the US. being build on top of moving sand dunes means that the fence will move away from the border sooner or later. In this aspect it does not demarcate territory (as traditional border fortifications tend to do but it rather establishes an inside and an outside: the border itself becomes flexible in order to be able to enable exclusion. Bryan Finoki links the floating fence to his concept of the nomadic fortress, a permanently reconfiguring regime of access control that divides the functioning capitalist core of the global economy from the global south:

This space has no regard for borders any more as we traditionally understand them, no respect for national territory; it hovers over and slips between those definitions, goes around and under them when it needs to, ultimately passing through border fixity as it sees fit. It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another. A structure that utilizes an entire atlas of border fences with a range of satellite technologies, web-based border vigilantes and extra-territorial floating prisons, to feed the border as a kind of geopolitical gutter space that siphons the subjects of migration off into a swollen infrastructure of detention where billions of dollars and are spent on their bounty.

It is a fully transitional geography of unsettled coordinates, excessive legality and perpetual legal suspension. This border doesn’t take the defensive posture that borders traditionally have in the past, but instead is on the move and on the hunt for a new class of would-be border crossers who’ve been bound together in a dangerously wide-cast surveillance net that is incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, laborer from insurgent. It is the border as the worst kind of political blur space. It is as immovable as it is fluid, like a sea of transparent blast walls crashing on the shores of geopolitical exile. [exceprted from: ‘Towards a Nomadic Fortress [Refuge/Refugee]‘]