Asian Borderlands Research Network

Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities and Flows

Call for Panels
Deadline: 15 January 2016

5th Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network

Venue: Social Science Baha,  Kathmandu, Nepal

Conference dates: 12 - 14 December 2016

Borderlands in Asia are often seen as marginal, isolated and remote. Social scientists are now recognising that borderlands generate a dynamism in and of themselves, and that cross-border linkages are far more central to historical change than previously acknowledged. In recent times, development across Asia has been markedly unequal and this has led to new borderland dynamics - both productive and destructive - that urgently need to be addressed.

Borderlands are also 'dynamic' in the sense that the realignment of borders and the creation of new kinds of borders are recurrent processes throughout history. Think of the exchange of hundreds of enclaves in India and Bangladesh, disputes over the construction of new island territories in the South China Sea, or the liberalisation of some Asian airline services.

In this conference we would like to place special emphasis on borders and cross-border flows of people and objects that have not been highlighted in previous conferences. Examples could be air and maritime borders, high-altitude borderlands, borderlands with a high risk of natural disasters, nomadic and migratory communities, and control over cyberspace.

For this upcoming 5th Asian Borderlands conference in Kathmandu, we invite submissions that address the following questions: What new borderland flows, corridors, and paths are (or have been) taking shape, and what impacts do they have on livelihoods and communities? How can we use these Asian cases to rethink social theories of various kinds? 

  • Livelihoods: In the borderlands of Asia, everyday lives are increasingly subject to state power and/or neglect. What are the effects of changing infrastructures and access to resources on people's livelihoods in borderland areas? How do environmental and political crises affect cross-border labour, trade connections, and gender and class relations? In what ways can we highlight the dynamism of borderland livelihoods through research on topics such as trans-border nature parks, tourism, the impact of technology, development discourses, cross-border investments, militarization, education, overfishing in territorial waters, piracy, and the smuggling of (il)licit goods? 
  • Communities: New border alignments have considerable impacts on diverse ethnic, religious, and occupational communities, and these communities respond to such transformations in different ways. We are interested in panels that involve diverse cross-border communities, as well as other kinds of 'border communities,' including border guards, security personnel, borderland rebels, refugees and displaced persons living in border camps. 
  • Flows: We hope to invite panels that address the flows of people, goods, and ideas across Asian borderlands, as well as obstructions to and redirections of such flows. We are also interested in new perspectives on less-tangible flows across borders. These can include topics such as cross-border pollution (for instance, the 'Asian brown cloud') and other environmental hazards or diseases; animal migration across state boundaries; riverine border issues; and challenges to border making in cyberspace.

Application Procedure

Since one of the main goals of this conference is to spur collaboration and conversations across diverse fields in the hope of building up a more nuanced picture of the intersections and relationships across Asian borderlands, we would like to include scholars, writers, policy studies researchers, artists, filmmakers, activists, the media, and others from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. We hope that these conceptually innovative panels, based on new research, will help to develop new perspectives in the study of Asian Borderlands.

We encourage applicants to submit a full panel proposal, as only a small number of individual papers will be selected. We will consider proposals for panels and roundtables that have a thematic focus, are of a comparative character, and involve scholars or practitioners affiliated with different institutions. If you are looking for other people to join your panel prior to the 15 January deadline, you may post your panel abstract and contact information on our Facebook page ( in order to reach a wider network.

The deadline to send in panel, roundtable and paper proposals is Friday 15 January 2016. Participants will be notified around April 2016. Please visit the Application Forms Page to submit your proposal.


Very limited financial support may be made available to some scholars who reside in Asia and some junior or low-income scholars from other parts of the world. If you would like to be considered for a grant, please submit the Grant Application Form in which you state the motivation for your request. Please also specify the kind of funding that you will apply for or will receive from other sources. Please note that the conference operates on a limited budget, and will not normally be able to provide more than a partial coverage of the costs of travel. The form should be submitted before 15 January 2016. Requests for funding received after this date will not be taken into consideration.

Further information about registration fees, the venue, accommodation, and logistics will be provided on the ABRN website ( once the panels have been accepted. Students and scholars with accepted papers who are affiliated with higher education institutions and research organisations in Nepal will have the opportunity to register at a discounted rate; details to follow. 


  • Deepak Thapa, Social Science Baha, Nepal
  • Bandita Sijapati, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, Nepal
  • Sara Shneiderman, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Tina Harris, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Erik de Maaker, Leiden University, the Netherlands


The conference is organized by Social Science Baha; International Institute for Asian Studies and the Asian Borderlands Research Network (ABRN).

For more information, please contact us at