By Mary Ellen Coaty, Joy Mopeli, & Melany Bennett Images courtesy of Peter Vartanian
Heba Gowayed at Occidental College

On Tuesday, February 20, 2024, students gathered in the Global Forum to engage with Associate Professor Heba Gowayed from CUNY Hunter College as she discussed the pecuniary and human costs of borders. Her talk echoed the content of her forthcoming book, “The Cost of Borders.”

Professor Gowayed's work challenges our understanding of borders as mere lines on a map, telling a static and equal story of sovereignty. She argues that it is dangerous to perceive borders as apathetic to their surroundings, emphasizing the fact that, to many, there is a cost to borders that is often deadly. Professor Gowayed’s study delved into how borders have shifted over decades and examined the various transactions associated with them, including costs, associated industries, and resources dedicated to border phenomena. The analysis distinguished between the experiences of settling and seeking asylum, underscoring that each border crossing involves its own set of unique transactions and challenges.

Primarily focusing on Global South-to-North migration, Professor Gowayed’s talk included three case studies: the border wall between Gaza and Israel, Mexico and the United States, and Turkey and Greece. She described the experiences of refugees who crossed these borders to overcome environmentally treacherous and unsafe routes. Additionally, many had to navigate through militarized borders and incur costly expenses, such as payments to smugglers and taxis. 

Her presentation shed light on the unseen barriers to immigration and the economic and social sacrifices refugees have to make. Moreover, she underscores the significance of identity, background, and access to resources (either monetary or social networks) in shaping an individual’s ability to embark on safer and/or less financially burdensome journeys to refuge. As part of the "Contextualizing Palestine/Israel" series, this event provided a comprehensive historical perspective on Gaza's significance in the U.S.-Israeli development of advanced security and surveillance systems. In unveiling the profound human toll and systemic challenges intertwined with border dynamics, Professor Gowayed's presentation stands as a compelling call to re-assess and humanize the narratives surrounding migration and the formidable barriers faced by those seeking refuge.

Heba Gowayed with Professors Ijaz and Chase
Contact the John Parke Young Initiative on the Global Political Economy
Johnson Hall

The McKinnon Center for Global Affairs