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Issue #68: November 2018



The Great Land Swap

Three years after India and Bangladesh exchanged exclaves to simplify the world's most complex border, many who chose to move rather than to change their citizenship find that their prospects are not what they'd hoped.


Welcome to the Almost-Country of Abkhazia

A tiny territory on the Black Sea hopes to boost its bid for nationhood by welcoming Syrians fleeing civil war.


A Guide to the Almost-Countries of the World

From Liberland to Sealand, a partial tour of semi-autonomous, breakaway states.


How Redistricting in Michigan Has Disenfranchised Voters and Helped the Far Right Capture a Centrist State

Gerrymandering in the Great Lakes State has cost some communities their representation, their schools, and their access to clean drinking water.


Party Lines: Tracking Gerrymandering Cases State by State

Recent court challenges to politically motivated redistricting have yielded several decisions not to decide.

Culture Pages

Two migrants lean against a rail next to the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on August 10th, 2018.

Emergency Responders on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Ieva Jusionyte explores the spirit of first response in an area where dangers don't care about boundaries.


Dodging Bullets to Make the World's Best Coffee in Mexico

Juan Carlos Lopez is braving local violence so that indigenous workers can get a share of the profits.


Objects That Matter: Cartocontroversy

Imagine peeling an orange, then trying to lay the peel flat. Map-making is the art of manipulating the orange peel until it yields.

A stretch of existing border wall cuts through the World Birding Center at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum less then 10 miles east of Granjeno.

The Global History Behind 'Build the Wall!'

Since ancient times, border walls have simultaneously assuaged and stoked our fears of outsiders. But a history of walls can't tell the full story of civilization.

Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back.

From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back

Katya Cengel tracks the lives of four families following the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.


Burning Mensch

In a land known for war, the Midburn gathering offers a vision of peace and love.

The Fix

Human smartphone final

The Boundary Between Our Bodies and Our Tech

Our online identities have become a part of who we are in the real world—whether we're always aware of it or not.

Partition Archive final

Saving the Library Before It Burns

An archive works to conserve the stories of the 1947 Partition of India.

Field Notes


Field Notes: Canteens Found Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Ajo, Arizona: Heavy-duty, non-biodegradable canteens—occasionally insulated with clothing or blankets to prevent chafing—scatter the desert in the Tucson sector of the United States border with Mexico.

A general view of hazy Singapore skyline is seen from the southern straits of Singapore on September 14th, 2017.

Letter From the Singapore Strait: Crossing Into Indonesia

Sindo Ferry passengers have their passports checked and their luggage x-rayed before they board, but they are divided about how meaningful national boundaries are.


Field Notes: Looking Over the Border Fence Outside San Diego, California

East of San Diego, California: In 2013, Border Patrol Agent Jacopo Bruni looks south over a border fence in the mountains.


Field Notes: A DEA Agent Inspects a Drug-Smuggling Tunnel Under the U.S.-Mexico Border

San Luis, Arizona: A United States Drug Enforcement Administration official aims a flashlight down a 55-foot-deep drug-smuggling tunnel that spans a distance of nearly 240 yards under the U.S.-Mexico border. Drugs ran north, and weapons and cash ran south.


Field Notes: Outside a Soup Kitchen for Central American Immigrants

Hermosillo, Mexico: Central American immigrants walk to a soup kitchen for some much-needed sustenance after traveling by Mexican freight train—known among the caravaners as "the beast."

Venezuelans wait in a queue in front of the Brazil Federal Police Office in the Venezuela-Brazil border, at Pacaraima, Roraima, Brazil, on February 28th, 2018. According to local authorities, around 1,000 refugees are crossing the Brazilian border each day from Venezuela.

Letter From Boa Vista, Brazil: Exodus From Venezuela

In the Brazilian state of Roraima, newcomers arrive every day by car, bus, and bicycle.


Birds in cages

There's a Name for That: Social Identity Theory

Identities that govern seemingly innate experiences, such as the taste of food—or even racial bias—can be harnessed to create positive social change.


Why Migrants Are Often Dissatisfied With Their Coyotes

In a recent study, the behavior most strongly linked to a negative recommendation was abandonment.


The Borders of Dissent

Efforts to contain protests inevitably create boundaries—and raise questions about restricting free speech.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department's Mike Eliason captured flames above a Montecito neighborhood on Bella Vista Drive on December 12th, 2017.

Behind the Scenes: Off the Map

An introduction to our special issue on borders and boundaries.