Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John O’Loughlin

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dunn

Third Advisor

Anna J. Secor

Fourth Advisor

Najeeb Jan

Fifth Advisor

Leyla Keough


The Republic of Moldova, situated in a classic European borderland, remains an alleged site of ungovernability given protracted economic and political crises following its independence from Soviet rule, subsequent conflict and emigration, and the rise of the European Union (EU). In charting the growth of geopolitical projects like the EU's Border Assistance Mission, national projects governing citizenship legislation, and biopolitical restrictions undergirding migration controls, I show how the country emerges in discourses of "risk management" for some and social "catastrophe" for others. As a study of the macro-geopolitics seen in EU external relations and the national regulation of borders, I ask how sovereignty and territoriality are understood, formally and informally, to reproduce what I label a "paradigmatic periphery". I argue that in this case, governance projects have failed to coalesce as intended but have still rendered new bundles of territorial sovereignty evident in the formal and informal understandings of border and migration control. Via attention to legal and informal use of new categories of people like "tolerated persons" and old ones like "Bessarabian", this dissertation shows the future of both EU and Moldovan sovereignty seen from the top-down and the bottom-up. Using mixed methods including census data, public surveys, and my own comparative focus groups in the borderlands to triangulate formal and popular understandings of geopolitical risks and national crises, I explain how variegated sovereignty, as the power to exclude or enter an area, is actually territorialized in the minds and lives of citizens and those who try to govern them using various legal devices and spatial arrangements