Northwestern Events Calendar


Three Responses to Shifting Borders: Sovereigntism, Democratic Cosmopolitanism, and the Watershed Model

When: Monday, March 6, 2023
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Political Theory Colloquium as they host Prof. Paulina Ochoa Espejo, a professor of political science at Haverford College. 

"Shifting Borders” now structure commerce, immigration, and asylum regimes. But if borders move legally, then the correspondence of people and territory on which traditional views of state legitimacy depend is also threatened. How should we understand state territory as its boundaries shift in space? This paper examines three contemporary normative responses to the phenomenon of shifting borders, and defends one of them. Shifting borders generate a tension between rights, territory and peoples, and each response deals differently with it. First, sovereigntism seeks to stabilize the relation of people and territory, even if this challenges the idea of universal rights. Second, democratic cosmopolitanism tolerates shifts in territory, as long as the people and rights stay in synchrony, although it challenges collective self-determination. Finally, the Watershed Model keeps borders in their place, but it accepts changes in the people, as it decouples democratic governance and rights from a particular national identity. The paper argues that the Watershed Model model challenges traditional views of identity, but in the long term, it can better respond to human mobility in times of planetary crises.

Dr. Paulina Ochoa Espejo is a Professor of Political Science at Haverford College. She works at the intersection of democratic theory and the history of political thought, and she is interested in questions about popular sovereignty and borders. She has written about populism, the boundaries of the demos, immigration and the right to exclude, the relation between democracy and territorial rights, the moral relevance of borders and border control. She is also interested in Latin American Political Thought.

To access the paper please reach out to Shawn Dean, Registration is not required for in-person attendence. 

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