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News Article

GSAS Research Workshop: Borders in Modern Asia

There has never been a more critical time for studying borders. Contemporary political events across the world have awakened us to their direct presence in our lives. For scholars in the humanities and social sciences, borders are particularly rich sites for critically examining a variety of questions, from the global flow of capital to everyday practices of border-crossing.

Recognizing the political and academic exigencies of our times, the new GSAS Research Workshop “Borders in Modern Asia” will be a forum for critically synthesizing works on border making and border crossing in terrestrial and maritime Asia. Throughout the year, the program will host a range of graduate students and senior scholars whose work address this theme. We use the term “modern” loosely to indicate the period from the eighteenth century to the present day, but we shall be open to incorporating innovative work on such themes even before this period. Within this broad historical framework, we will welcome papers that adopt a variety of perspectives and disciplinary methodologies, including but not limited to archival work, textual analysis, the use of visual and material cultures, and ethnography.

Borders in Modern Asia, capaciously understood for our purposes, geographically encompass both terrestrial and oceanic frontiers within and around the Asiatic landmass. Focusing on “Modern Asia” also transcends the boundaries of area studies which divide academia. This is a border-crossing urgently needed in our field. Disciplinary training continues to sector our fields into “South Asia,” “South-east Asia,” “East Asia,” “the Middle East,” and the like, and nothing can be more unfortunate. A growing number of graduate students naturally feel frustrated and dissatisfied with such divisions. We therefore invite papers from disciplines including, but certainly not limited to, History, Anthropology, History of Science, Political Science, Literature, Sociology and all the area studies programs. Papers can creatively address several issues related to borders, including territoriality, ecology, political economy, resources, sovereignty, national and ethnic identity. The workshop emphasizes thematic convergence over an “area studies” approach.

Graduate Students interested in presenting papers over the 2017-18 session should contact Aniket De (aniket_de@g.harvard.edu), at the earliest possible. Please note that the audience will be thematically oriented and regionally diverse, so papers should be prepared to address implications beyond their immediate fields.

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