The practice of centers taking control over their peripheries is as old as states, but it is not innocuous. When the federal government takes control of its periphery, it imposes a kind of alien rule, even on the familiar terrain of the homeland. What we miss, when we focus only on the outward face of the border—the wall we build to defend against the barbarians outside—is the function that state projections of power have internally. What is the point of ostentatious displays of power at the state’s edge—not just the wall, but flags, uniforms, songs and other performances of national identity that have, in the United States, become evermore dramatic after 9/11? Of course they are there to warn off potential transgressors. But they are also there to guarantee the loyalty of the border community itself—to remind the people inside the border who they really are. It is a kind of domestication: a domesticating of what has the potential to become foreign.
In this sense, we might think about the border as a kind of local colonial project. Border policies and ceremonies are as much designed to remind locals of who they are as it is to tell outsiders who they are not. The border fences in as much as it fences out. Peripheral peoples are not trusted and so they are disciplined. They have a double role: they are on the one hand most at risk from outside threats, as well as at risk of becoming a threat. Peripheral peoples are at once the subject of security, and its object.