ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

16 – Re-orienting Borderlands:Beyond spatial fixations in South Asia

The study of borderlands in South Asia has highlighted that these societies are not self- contained units contiguously mapped over state territory but include political, economic and cultural networks that often overlap territorial borders.


Anuradha Sen Mookerjee - National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment, India
Mélanie Vandenhelsken - Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Aditya Kiran Kakati - International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden

Long Abstract

The study of borderlands in South Asia has highlighted that these societies are not self- contained units contiguously mapped over state territory but include political, economic and cultural networks that often overlap territorial borders.
The re-orientation of the scholarly focus on borderland lives reveals complexities and contradictions with discourses of state and territoriality, while shedding light on the borderlands as a social space, which borderlanders infuse with meaning and alternative forms of spatialisation. With space in the borderlands “forever taking on new shapes” (van Schendel 2005), new perspectives emerge for reconceptualising borderlands.
This panel seeks to enrich this discussion by broadening an exclusively territorial focus to reflect upon borderlands as both ‘perceived space’ and ‘lived space’ that is expressed and performed (Lefebvre 1974). For example, conceptualisation of the ‘village’ as a flexible set of social relations rather than as a fixed point on a map by Shneiderman (2015), and of ‘imagined geography’ being constituted through “the idea of alliance or unity among populations who otherwise live separate existences”, by Gohain (2020) offer interesting methods for reflection to de-territorialize borderlands.
This panel calls for papers across disciplines that reflect on borderlanders’ view of the borderlands: how they experience and imagine it, how borders enfold the lives and times of those historically and presently connected with the space and how practices and meanings in South Asian borderlands have been changing over time. Innovative elements of the panel include looking at the South Asian borderlands as space constituted by:

  • Memories of significant events among borderland people
  • Local forms of spatialisation
  • Social and spatial mobilities, and their effect on citizenship
  • Social and local practices of statehood
  • Historical records
  • Transboundary rivers and riverine communities
  • Human/non-human relations


Storytelling and Place-making among Indigenous Youth in the Indian Eastern Himalayan borderlands
Bentley Jenny- University of Zurich, Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, Zurich, Switzerland
Making and unmaking borders in South Asia
Casolari Marzia- University of Turin, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Modern Cultures, Turin, Italy
Circular Migration and Repatriation: Oral Histories of Burmese-Indians in West Bengal
Chatterjee Saheli- Geneva Graduate Institute, International History and Politics, Geneva, Switzerland
The border of north-eastern India: British economic and military interest
Dasgupta Molly- University of Turin, Department of Culture, Politics and Society, Turin, Italy
Transferences of the non-human: manifestations, mobilities and spatialities
de Maaker Erik- Leiden University, Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden, Netherlands
Understanding nations and borderlands through the people’s movement in the former Bangladeshi enclaves of India.
Ghosh Anindita- University of Illinois at Chicago, History, Chicago, United States
Where is the borderland? Notes on space, scale, and borderness
Ghosh Sahana- National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
A Border or a Bridge? – a Study of a Minor Religious Sect of West Bengal
Cultural memories of the 1962 Indo-Sino War: making meaning of a borderland space through narratives from two Himalayan villages
Kar Tania- The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, Cultural Studies, Hyderabad, India
Lacerating Memories of the Mizo Famine 1959-60: A Phenomenological Exploration.
A Colonial Clutter: The Radcliffe Line and the Khasi-Jaintia Community of Meghalaya
Laloo Sashi Teibor- North-Eastern Hill University, History, Shillong, India
The Remaking of Bengal Borders Continues: Physical versus Psychological, and Centre versus Periphery
Morsalin Sheikh Shams- Ghent University, Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent, Belgium
Under the Shadow of Mayel Lyang: The Spaces and Places of the Lepchas of the Darjeeling Hills
Namchu Jordan Kinchum Tshering- Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Humanities and Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
Citizenship precarities in India’s northeastern borderland
Saikia Smitana- Azim Premji University, School of Development, Bengaluru, India