Andrew Brown

Discipline: Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies

Project Summary

The Language of the Fence: Reinforced International Boundary Barriers Systems or RIBBS of the UAE and Spain    

A Reinforced International Boundary Barrier System (RIBBS) is a socio-technical network; as in an entity built on science and technology in a direct power relationship with society.    

The RIBBS traces and inscribes this power like a recording device that records the interactions of the actors and actants within the network into a discernible discourse that can be translated through the physical “power‟ of its existence. RIBBS can be read, not just as marvels of engineering, but as a dialogue of something more profound about the states and societies that build them.    

RIBBS are an ontological definition and not a piece of inert matter in the hands of others. Why would a state construct a RIBBS? RIBBS are the ultimate expression of sovereignty. They can exemplify that which the state perceives as a threat to its sovereignty; a perceived threat that has to be prevented. A RIBBS can speak a governmental dialect of identity, supremacy, authority, separation, and segregation.   

The RIBBS construction designs create a visual security discourse spoken by the governments building them to the world and thus generate a discernible “Language of the Fence” that represents the government’s deportment on their international boundary security; The “Language of the Fence‟ idiom is vocalized through the designs, construction materials, technologies and border performance chosen by the state.    

Why are RIBBS designs chosen? What discourse does the choice of construction design convey? What dialect do the construction materials and technologies speak? What statement does the border crossing performance make?    

The answers to these questions are the basic utterances for the “Language of the Fence‟ semiotic formation. By being fluent in a common “Language of the Fence‟ one can “read‟ the state’s deportment on their border performance; comprehend their statement of power, interpret their level of perceived threat, interpret, and analyse the intention of the chosen construction materials and technologies, predict their success or failure, isolate the failed applications, and make improvements for future border security scenarios.   
My dissertation establishes the concept that RIBBS create a “Language of the Fence” that is spoken though the construction styles chosen by the governments building them by firstly; defining what a reinforced international boundary barrier system (RIBBS) is; secondly, investigating how a RIBBS can “speak‟; thirdly, introducing a common classification system and terminology directly related to RIBBS that can bridge the academic, military, governmental and contracting disciplines and be utilised to translate and analyse the “Language of the Fence‟ and finally; apply this “Language of the Fence‟ phrasebook to translate the case study samples of the two RIBBS scenarios within this thesis (UAE and Spain) to demonstrate how being fluent in “The Language of the Fence‟ could lead to a better governmental, military, academic and contractual understanding of how the increased numbers of RIBBS being constructed today effect the socio-technical security/power dialogue spoken by the world’s international boundaries.                 

Supervisory Team

Professor Jonathan Githens-Mazer; IAIS, University of Exeter, UK