There are a wide variety of different conceptions of the border and these are subject to continual change, as they have been in the past. Traditionally the border concept has mainly been related to topography, and has as been the particular domain of geography and law, though also philosophers and mathematicians have developed concepts of the border, or more specifically, the limit. The geographical concept of border as first developed in the 19th Century envisages borders as physical and visible lines of separation between political, social and economic spaces, often charged with nationalistic energy.
Border concepts are in no way limited to academic and professional fields; they also take part in and develop in everyday life and discourse. Our day to day conception of borders depends partly on our previous experience of borders; psychoanalytical approaches to borders relate different border concepts to different formations of the border of the self at early stages of childhood, or even in the womb.
Translation further complicates the concept of border. In some languages the border is a broader concept than the English word border, including the idea of limit, limitation or also of frontier, and some languages have not yet developed a vocabulary that can designate new border related terms such as border zone, boundary-object or Grenzverletzer.
In the last decades a historical shift has occurred in academic study, both producing new conceptions of the border giving the border new and different areas of application. Borders can have political, historical, ethical, psychological and artistic implications and connotations. Borders are increasingly seen as dynamic phenomenon that can emerge, disappear, and re-emerge, as having a transitional character, as being internal zones of negotiation. Borders are no longer necessarily seen as barriers, but often thought of as points of contact. The spatial turn within the field of cultural studies aims to connect topographical spaces with the medial spaces of culture. The focus has moved to local, urban, intimate and subjective spaces physically distanced from the more traditional borders of nations.
As some have pointed out, concepts are themselves ways of drawing mental boundaries, so that even the way we formulate the border concept may be dependent on our choice of border concept. What we recognize as a border may depend on whether the border of our border concept is clear-cut or fuzzy, etc.