Asian Borderlands Research Network

Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities and Flows

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, panels will 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.

Attending the conference
It is no longer possible to submit a proposal for the conference. If you are interested in attending the conference, please see the Registration page.


  • 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