Borderlands are spaces that exist around borders and affect people on both sides of the border with various intensity and extent. That is to say they are inhabitable border zones. The borderland can be a place of mutual antagonism and of marginalization, but they can also take on the characteristics of regions or zones of transition with emergence of new cultural, linguistic and social hybrid identity, enabling a gradual movement from one cultural norm to another and producing successful border-crossings. Equally, borderlands are regions where people may live in a repeated experience of either failed or successful border crossings, as well as in the larger historical narratives of border formation.
Rather than as separation lines, borders are increasingly seen as zones of negotiation. They can be situated in local, urban, intimate and subjective spaces as at the outer borders of a territory. The border is thus not only the division between two territories or places, but also a territory or place in itself. These places are zones where possession remains unclear and they are simultaneously zones of uncertainty and security. In them there can be space for more than one institution, collective or person. They can be described as multilayered spaces or as places that are mapped onto other places and connected into networks, where different social agents act and move within the same spaces, inscribing their activities onto them.
"Within the transition zone, cultural, linguistic and social hybridity can emerge, resulting in the formation of a sub-cultural buffer zone within which movement from one side to the other eases up considerably – the person in transit from one place or group to another undergoes a process of acclimatization and acculturation as he/she moves through the zone of transition, so that the shock of meeting the 'other' is not as great as he/she feared. In some cases it can bring about the formation of transnational, transboundary, spaces with the emergence of new hybrid regional identities." (David Newman 39)
Zones of negotiation exist both on the level of the individual and that of the group, in which the other may either be excluded or recognized as part of the own. Border zones are thus places in which our sense of belonging is articulated and inscribed. These zones can be places of mutual antagonism, places of meeting, and places of transition.
- Newman, David. "The Lines that Continue to Separate Us: Borders in Our 'Borderless' World". Border Poetics De-Limited. Eds. Johan Schimanski & Stephen Wolfe. Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2007. 27-57.