Conf/CfP - Between Empires: The Making and Unmaking of Borders, 19th- 20th Centuries, 1 - 2 February 2018, India

Publish Date: May 02, 2017

Deadline: Jul 15, 2017

Between Empires: The making and unmaking of borders, 19th- 20th centuries

Call for Papers

International Conference

Between Empires: The making and unmaking of borders, 19th- 20th centuries

Date: 1 - 2 February, 2018

Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The idea of frontiers, borders and borderlands have historically constituted important elements of state-making or empire building. This has been an important characteristic of the Asian frontiers and borderlands. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, the production of these spaces was shaped by a variety of processes such as relations of power, knowledge production, violence, imperial policies, search for resources and ideas of space. Such processes proceeded especially along the edges of imperial formations such as British India’s North East frontier, the North West frontier, the Burmese frontier, the Tibetan frontier and the Chinese frontier, etc. These aspects of frontier making were however also shaped by the important role of capital and the ways in which societies and polities in these areas negotiated with these developments in multiple ways. It was in these processes and interactions that one can locate the making of “modern” frontiers and borderlands. In addition, the land frontiers were also straddled by coastal and riverine frontiers such as Arakan, Chittagong, Brahmaputra, Mekong etc. In turn, these frontiers were linked to the wider oceanic and land networks, such as the Indian Ocean and the Silk Road, which connected these geographies to older networks of exchange as well as to the global imperial circulations.

What were the tools through which borders were historically demarcated and enforced on the ground? In what ways the nature of violence shaped the making of frontiers and borderlands? What practices were instrumental in reshaping the contours of local societies, economies and their historical geographies? Can land, coastal or riverine frontiers, rather than being perceived as insular and distinct spaces, allow one to rethink these geographies in terms of ideas and processes of connected histories? What are the practices through which borders are transgressed or unmade?  Focusing on the making and unmaking of various Asian borders, this interdisciplinary conference aims to engage with some of these questions. Existing research has pointed to how borders matter not just to the states. The effects of borders on the local societies are significant, as it creates and defines the idea of subject through economic and political regimes, and regulates even the everyday life in the borderlands. Some of these aspects continue to characterize even contemporary borderlands. Further, different regimes of economies and polities often intersect and operate in the borderland spaces. Rather than being static lines on maps, borders are also constantly unmade through the everyday practices of people on the borderlands. Thus, these studies also highlight the limits and the paradoxical nature of state power in the borderlands. The conference not only seeks to engage with such existing bodies of work, but also explore new ways of contributing to this growing field of studies. In this regard, the conference considers frontiers, borders and borderlands not only as conceptual frames of enquiry, but also as analytical categories produced at various historical conjunctures. The conference also seeks to engage with the importance of comparative study of frontiers and borderlands, such as the North East frontier of British India with other frontier areas, and how such comparisons can provide important insights on the making and unmaking of borders in other colonial settings. An important focus of the conference will be on the everyday experiences of societies and how various actors resisted, negotiated and modified political spaces and relations in the borderlands. Some of the broad themes under which abstracts are invited, but not limited to, are as below:

  • making state, drawing borders, practices of violence
  • travel, surveys, mapping, explorations
  • land, river and coastal frontiers
  • frontier objects, capital, illegal networks and global resources
  • religious frontiers, millenerial movements
  • mobile groups: labours, soldiers, traders, missionaries etc
  • migration, ecology, landscape and identity  
  • world wars, re-imagining frontiers
  • nationalism, state and borderlands
  • labour economy, development and transnationality         

This two day international conference, organized by North East India Studies Programme, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, invites submissions from researchers working on the borderlands of South, South East and East Asia. Interested researchers may submit an abstract of 250-300 words, along with a CV to the conference organizers Lipokmar Dzüvichü ( and Manjeet Baruah (

The last date of submission is 15 July, 2017. Accepted proposals will be intimated by 1 September, 2017. Participants from outside India are requested to seek funding from their institutions for travel costs. Local conveyance and accommodation will be provided to the participants.

Contact Info: 

Lipokmar Dzüvichü, Assistant Professor, North East India Studies Programme, School of Social Sciences- I, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi - 110067

Manjeet Baruah, Assistant Professor, North East India Studies Programme, School of Social Sciences - I, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi - 110067

Contact Email:
For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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