Asian Borderlands Research Network

Borderland Futures: Technologies, Zones, Co-existences
7th Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network
June 2022

(The Asian Borderlands Conference has been further postponed until June 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 Outbreak. Exact dates will be announced in due course.)

Venue: Reconciliation & Coexistence in Contact Zone (RCCZ) Research Center, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, South Korea

There will be no new call for proposals. All individual presentation, panel and roundtable proposals that have been accepted for presentation will remain in the programme

Conference theme - Borderland Futures: Technologies, Zones, Co-existences
In the past decade, Asian borderlands have experienced intense ruptures and unparalleled connectivity across diverse communities and geographies. The re-opening of frontiers has unleashed a development frenzy evident in new railways, road networks, import/export zones, trading ports, markets and casinos. Higher level initiatives such as China’s “Belt and Road” and India’s revamped “Act East” policies seem to promise a renewed interest in creating greater social and economic spaces for mutual prosperity. At the same time, ground level realities challenge these top down notions and visions of transregional engagement and fast-track development.

Over the past decade peace-building and co-existence have opened new possibilities for reconciliation, resolution, and readiness for shared futures. State and non-state actors continue to seek new directions and pathways away from a past haunted by conflicts, violence and unsettled differences. In doing so friendship ties and communal bonds can be strengthened across borders to make space for respect, recognition, and co-existence. Nevertheless, anxieties over security and sovereignty trigger concerns over unregulated mobilities, the prevalence of shadow economies, new forms of crime, the abuse of military force, and resource and trade wars. Borders are thus being reconsidered and reinforced in parts of Asia, creating new uncertainties and precarities for communities living in borderlands.

The 7th Asian Borderland Research Network (ABRN) conference focuses on three key themes – technologies, zones, co-existences – that aim to generate broader debate and intellectual engagement with borderland futures. Panels and papers will offer critical reflections on these key themes both theoretically and empirically.

  • Technologies – Borderlands in Asia are shaped by technology to varying degrees: from sites of surveillance and dense infrastructure to areas that are seemingly remote and distant from nodes of technology. Panels engaging with this theme might consider the following questions: How do technologies of various forms transform the ways in which borders are drawn, maintained, and crossed? How are technologies used to make borders “smarter”? How do technologies enable new opportunities for social and economic development on the margin? How have endogenous forms of technology been evolving across the Asian borderlands? Can technologies help to remake the geographies of power? Will technologies lead to new forms of displacement and dispossession?
  • Zones – Borderlands are attractive as zones for development, investment, extraction and extra-territorial experimentation. Panels engaging with this theme might consider the following questions: How do zones alter the lives and livelihoods of borderland communities? Do zones enable new forms of mobility in borderlands and across borders? Can we imagine zones as both productive and extractive sites? What are the politics around establishing zones in borderlands, and how do they reflect changing spatial imaginations? Do productive zones change the vision of borderlands in national and transnational ideas of the future? What happens to borderlands when zones decline or are shut down?
  • Co-existences – Everyday life in Asian borderlands in history was and is determined by varying forms of socio-economic, cultural and political co-existence, which are often (but not necessarily) subject to transforming border regimes. Panels engaging with this theme might consider the following questions: How might we identify and analyse co-existence in Asian borderlands? What kinds of institutions, communities, societies and polities co-exist in borderlands? How does the constant negotiation of co-existence lead to new configurations of border arrangements? How can historical memory and experience of co-existence and convergence in borderlands resolve disputes and conflicts between nations and states in the future? What role do technologies and zones, but also interconnections, infrastructures and mobilities, play in negotiating and shaping co-existences across borders and vice versa?   

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  • Duncan McDuie-Ra, University of Newcastle, Australia
  • Erik de Maaker, Leiden University, the Netherlands
  • Henryk Alff, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Germany
  • Juan Zhang, Bristol University, United Kingdom
  • Kee-Hyun Ban, Korea Military Academy, South Korea
  • Myung-Ho Hyun, Reconciliation & Coexistence in Contact Zone (RCCZ) Research Center, South Korea
  • Tina Harris, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    The conference is organized by the Reconciliation & Coexistence in Contact Zone (RCCZ) Research CenterInternational Institute for Asian Studies and the Asian Borderlands Research Network (ABRN).

    For more information, please contact us at