Asian Borderlands Research Network


Dr Franck Billé will give a keynote speech at the 7th Asian Borderlands conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Archipelagoes, Enclaves, and Other Cartographic Monsters
A decade ago, Wendy Brown (2010) saw the global proliferation of border walls as a symptom of waning sovereignty, the very physical presence of a wall betraying a longing for clarity in a world that is increasingly complex and scattered (Shaw 2016). As separation devices, border walls also speak to the enduring visual power of the shape of the state—what Ben Anderson has called the logomap—which despite (or perhaps precisely because) of its simplicity, has lost none of its affective force.

In this lecture I will look at territorial entities that depart from the standard state model such as colonial dominions, enclaves, and other atomized and fractured national spaces. I suggest that the emergence of the logomap, free from all geographical shackles and dislocated from its neighbors, was made possible through the active suppression of similarities, connections, and overlaps. The visually unambiguous logomap, however, is paralleled by the uncanny shadowy figure of the monstrous and the concorporate, which threatens to disrupt the idealized portrayal of the nation-state as autonomous and independent—a terror (cf. Elden 2009) we can trace in fragmented territorial forms.

Franck Billé is a cultural anthropologist/geographer based at UC Berkeley where he is Program Director for the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies. His research focuses on borders, space, and sovereignty in northeast Asia. His most recent book, Voluminous States: Sovereignty, Materiality, and the Territorial Imagination, is forthcoming (Fall 2020) with Duke University Press. He is currently finalizing two other books, Somatic States: On Cartography, Geobodies, Bodily Integrity (Duke University Press), and On the Russia-China Border, co-authored with Caroline Humphrey, (Harvard University Press). More information about his current research is available on his website