Frontiering International Relations: Narrating US policy in the Asia Pacific

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Abstract

This article reintegrates the frontier into debates about contemporary global affairs. Its analytical focus is the United States, because despite widespread agreement that it constitutes a “frontier nation”, we lack clear explanations of what the American frontier is today and what role(s) it occupies in US politics and foreign policy. To resolve this, the article ontologically reconceptualizes the frontier, arguing that it firstly constitutes a narrative, rather than a spatial, construct. Instead of conquering a once self-evident frontier, the US has a long-standing tradition of narrative “frontiering” as the ideational (re)production of frontiers. The frontier has been most consistently understood not in terms of territory but ideas, with Washington’s modern-day “frontiers of freedom”—notably in the Asia Pacific—as real and consequential as those of the past. The frontier-as-narrative represents a performative act about what the US is and how it should engage at peripheral borderlands of its identity. Beyond the US, frontiers are created and actioned anew to reshape international affairs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberorac009
Number of pages22
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • frontiers
  • US foreign policy
  • narratives
  • Asia Pacific

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