Asian Borderlands Research Network

Activated Borders: Re-openings, Ruptures and Relationships

The 4th Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network was held in Hong Kong from 8-10 December 2014. It was hosted by the Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong.

Keynote speech - Prof. Brantly Womack, University of Virginia, USA

Activated Borders: Re-openings, Ruptures and Relationships
All over Asia, international borders condition encounters between diverse ethnic, linguistic, economic, religious, and political groups. Recently, many formerly disregarded borders have been ‘activated’. Some have become more permeable for people, goods and ideas. By contrast, elsewhere in Asia borders have actively hardened. Such border dynamics (which have a history of centuries) shape cross-border linkages and are in turn shaped by them. The 4th Asian Borderlands Research Conference in Hong Kong featured papers and panels that address continuities and transformations along routes and borders in Asia, broadly related to the theme “Re-openings, Ruptures and Relationships.”

● Re-openings: Asia has witnessed many closed and then re-opened borders. What are the political, economic and cultural factors behind these dynamics? Who are the prime movers behind activated borders – states, borderland communities, or others? What are the characteristics of the new connections, reunions and corridors that are being created in Asian borderlands – and how can we theorize them?

● Ruptures: The closing of borders may lead to networks, communities and pathways being reimagined and restructured. What does closure mean in practice? How permeable are officially closed borders? And are they easier to cross for some than for others? Does it make sense to assert the idea of the “borderland” throughout political and historical ruptures?

● Relationships: Cycles of border activation impinge on the evolution of ethnic, family and gender relations; trade, investment and infrastructure; migration and tourism; the flow of information and technology; environmental issues; security concerns; and many more. The physical presence of the state may wax and wane as borders open up and close down. How does this affect the relationships between state agents, borderland communities and border-crossing individuals?

● Prof. Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong
● Dr. Yuk Wah Chan, City University of Hong Kong
● Dr. Tina Harris, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

● Prof. Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
● Dr. Erik de Maaker, Leiden University, the Netherlands

The conference was organized by the Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong; International Institute for Asian Studies, the Netherlands and the Asian Borderlands Research Network.

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