In this article I set out to develop an alternative analysis of national borders that grants them moral and politically normative standing while at the same time showing the limits of such merely normative analytics. The aim is to develop a genealogical analysis of the U.S. border, which is taken here as an exemplar of how not to implement borders. The first section develops what will be called here the “mobile panopticon,” one that colonizes the so-called heartland, making of all citizens potentially extraditable subjects. The second section argues that the assemblage of institutions that make of the border not simply a geographic marker has become deeply enmeshed with the United States' peculiar institutions of hyperpenality and criminal branding, thus leading to the expansion and exacerbation of what I have called the “ethnoracial prison industrial complex.” This analysis then offers warrants for the argument that the U.S. border is no longer a neutral arbiter of sovereignty but, instead, has become a “genocidal machine.” In the closing section an engagement with Casey and Watkins's recent work on the U.S. border offers a bridge to the genealogical claim that the U.S. border is in fact a thanatological dispositif.

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