Our 13th Border Bite is now available

Hot on the heels of last week’s succulent offering, our 13th Border Bite is a substantial morsel from Ed Pulford, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University, who provides us with a tasty treat in his analysis of the remote Hokkaido town of Nemuro’s position at the centre of Japan’s leading edge, its Northern Territories dispute with Russia. Touching on the malleability of political space, importance of vision and cognition, and paradoxical position of Nemuro within this dispute, where it both decries and depends upon its place at the border, there is plenty for everyone to get their teeth into. We hope you enjoy.

All the Bites are available HERE

11th Border Bite published

Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman’s critical examination of “Mizoram as ‘cultural connector’ in India’s Look East/Act East Policy” analyzes the ruination and latent potential of connectivity in the Northeast Indian state, as seen from the India-Myanmar border crossing of Rih.

This Border Bite is available HERE

With the other ten courses online HERE

Watch out for our next succulent snack by Koji Furukawa, being served shortly!

On China’s Borders

Ed Pulford, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at Hokkaido University, interviews authors on their work for the New Books Network, including a recent edited volume by Juan Zhang and Martin Saxer that examines The Art of Neighbouring: Making Relations Across China’s Borders (Amsterdam University Press, 2018).

Listen to Ed’s careful questioning of the editors understandings of China’s borders and borderlands HERE.



New Reports up

A series of reports on events KUBS has been involved in are now up in the Event Reports section, go check them out HERE

Connectivity and Cartographic Anxiety Conference at Kyoto University

On October 1, Edward Boyle and Jabin Thomas Jacob participated in a Workshop organized by Rohan D’Souza at Kyoto University, which brought together 7 speakers for a really focused discussion, primarily on India’s Northeast and the surrounding neighbourhood. With thanks to Rohan for organizing the event, and Kyushu University for Wakaba Challenge grant that facilitated Jabin and my participation.

For some photos of the event and the subsequent dinner, see HERE.

(with thanks to Patrick and Aimee-Linh at Yogascapes) 

Japan Association for South Asian Studies Report

Closely following on the heels of the World Social Science Forum came a panel at the Annual Meeting of the Japan Association for South Asian Studies, held in Kanazawa on 29 and 30 September, 2018. This panel was convened by Edward Boyle, and supported by both a Progress100 grant for the Commemoration of the Completion of Ito Campus, Kyushu University, awarded to Professor Akihiro Iwashita, and a Wakaba Challenge Grant examining “Japan and Northeast India: Development Aid, Connectivity and Reterritorialization”, awarded to Edward Boyle. This support provided through Kyushu University enabled the attendance of both Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman and Jabin Thomas Jacob in Kanazawa, and all the participants offer their gratitude to Kyushu University for the opportunity received.

The panel was entitled “The Connectivity Panacea: geopolitical postures and developmental dilemmas in Northeast India” and sought to bring together four scholars working on India’s dynamic Northeast region from a variety of perspectives. Chaired by Edward Boyle, it sought to critically examine the place of the Northeast within India, as well as its role as a theatre for an expanding geopolitical competition involving India, China and Japan, and seek to reflect upon the possible effects of such contestation for the region itself. The first paper, given by Rohan D’Souza (Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University), sought to highlight that “Connectivity has no Pulse: Rivers as a biological challenge to Infrastructure in North East India” in order to emphasize the unintended consequences that could result from the construction of riverine infrastructure, but also the problems of promoting a form of connectivity based upon static, rather than a more natural, dynamic infrastructure.

This attention was built upon by the second paper, from Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman (Visiting Faculty to TISS Guwahati), on “Infrastructure Development in Northeast India: Examining Inequality and Exclusion in the Development Promise of Economic Connectivity”. In it, Mirza focused on the policy of connectivity, and sought to highlight that infrastructure and connectivity development in Northeast India has resulted in the coupling unequal spaces within that region, and, in Mirza’s words, “the path to ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ cannot hop, skip and jump such inequality”. Both papers emphasize the lop-sided pattern of development in the region.

The lop-sided nature of development is reflected in the impact of foreign state’s on this borderland space. Security concerns stemming from the territorial dispute with China over Arunachal Pradesh is frequently presented as an impetus for connectivity projects, a factor reviewed by Jabin Jacob (Associate Editor, China Report) in his paper on “The China Factor in Northeast India’s Connectivity Projects”. Tracing the contrast in Indian and Chinese infrastructural projects on both sides of the border, the paper brought into focus the capacity gap that exists between India’s aspirations for the Northeast and what it is able to achieve there.

It is to overcome this gap, indeed, that the Japan International Cooperation Agency has been invited to invest in the region by the Indian government, which is the focus of Edward Boyle’s Wakaba Challenge project and his paper here, which was “Exploring Connections in Connectivity”. Offering some early reflections from what is intended to be a long-running project, it sought to trace out the effects of Japanese investment on how the space of the region is understood. There was finally time for brief questions from a packed audience.

World Social Science Forum 2018

The 2018 World Social Science Forum was held from the 25 – 28 September in Fukuoka, Kyushu. The fourth in a series of regular meetings convened by the International Social Science Council, the Forum was organized by Kyushu University and sought examine questions of “Security and Equality for Sustainable Futures”. Kyushu University Border Studies was fortunate enough to be involved in a number of sessions, and was sponsored in its endeavours through a Progress 100 grant awarded to Professor Akihiro Iwashita by Kyushu University, which enabled us to host a series of events which celebrated the commemoration of the completion of Kyushu University’s new Ito Campus. Both Professor Akihiro Iwashita and myself would like to extend our gratitude to Kyushu University for their generous support, which made our participation in this and other events possible.


The first day of the conference concluded in a Reception attended by the Crown Prince of Japan, whose attendance impressed upon visitor’s the importance of this event and the prestige granted to Kyushu University for winning the opportunity to host it. The first panel in which Kyushu University Border Studies was involved was one on the frontline of questions of security and sustainability in the contemporary world. “Arctic Geopolitics and Climate Change” brought many of the issues central to the conference into sharp focus, offering an examination of the course of Arctic Policy from a series of national perspectives. Minsu Kim, from the Korea Maritime Institute in Pusan, Korea, spoke on the “Development of Korea’s Arctic Policy: the role as a ‘Responsible Arctic Partner’” and traced out the emergence of the Arctic as a focus of policy in the Republic of Korea. Tony Tai-Ting Liu, of the University of Tokyo, Japan, spoke on an “Arctic Policy with Chinese Characteristics: The Polar Silk Road Initiative and Its Geopolitical Implications”, which offered a controversial perspective on power dynamics in the Arctic region. Xu Liu, of the Renmin University of China, similarly examined the questions raised by “The Ice Silk Road Initiative and Its implication for the Arctic Governance”, which are indeed central to the region’s transformation in recent years.

Fujio Ohnishi, of the Arctic Research Center at Hokkaido University, Japan, examined the “Development of Japan’s Arctic Policy: The Third Basic Plan for Ocean Policy”, bringing Japan’s engagement with the region up to date by focussing on the emergence of this new policy document in May this year. The final speaker, Minori Takahashi, from the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University looked at the “The emergence of Cold-War-like power relations in the post-Cold War era and their influence on sub-state actors in the Arctic: Thule Air Base as the study case”, shifting the audience’s attention back from the Arctic as presented in think-tanks and policy-shops of Asian states to its existence as a place, remote from, and frequently hostile to, the designs and practices of states existing at great remove from its borders. The panel’s discussant, Martin van der Velde, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, offered a tremendous number of points for further discussion, many of which were picked up by the presenters in their responses. The panel was co-chaired by Hyunjoo Naomi Chi of Hokkaido University and Akihiro Iwashita of Kyushu University, and the participants were fortunate to be able to continue the discussion long into the evening.

The third day saw Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman and Hyunjoo Naomi Chi in action as part of the Ito Commemoration team. The afternoon session, OP6-01 The Politics of Inclusion: Towards a Secure and Sustainable Future, featured Mirza Rahman’s paper on “Infrastructure Development in Northeast India: Examining Inequality and Exclusion in the Development Promise of Progress and Prosperity”, in which he examined some of the issues surrounding the problem of investing in regions, rather than merely constructing concrete corridors through them. A number of the themes introduced here will be later developed in his talk at Ito Campus on October 10. Naomi Chi was part of a Topical Session on T06 Case studies in Migration and Integration, which for practical reasons would ultimately be merged with another session, T07 Sexual Crimes and Violence Against Women and Men, that was impractically scheduled to occur in the same room at the same time. Ultimately, there was enough overlap between each of the papers to make this clash of sessions into a worthwhile exercise. Case studies examining the return of Indonesian nurses from working in Japan, the sexual violence committed against female politicians in Uganda, and the politics of desire experienced by widowed Muslims in India served to ground the topicality of the session in a series of very human stories, which made for a satisfying panel. The day concluded with a banquet, providing the perfect opportunity for participants at the conference to relax with one another in a more social setting.

The final day kicked off in the morning with the main event associated with the Progress100 grant, which was a special session that examined “Border Studies Today: Theoretical Development and Its Role in the Contemporary World”, chaired by Professor Akihiro Iwashita of Kyushu University, and moderated and commented on by both Edward Boyle and Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman. This Roundtable sought to offer a more global perspective, via both the speaker’s backgrounds and the scope of their discussion. The session began with a brief outline of its aims from Edward Boyle, before each of the contributor’s was invited to contribute for about ten minutes, before the discussion was opened up to the floor. The first speaker, Martin van der Velde, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, spoke regarding the development of “European Borders Studies in the past decades”, and sought to trace out a key distinction in the way it was possible to study borders in Europe as opposed to elsewhere in the world. Drawing upon a tripartite typology of methods and approaches, he emphasized how Europe’s commitment to reducing the significance of borders, through a border regions framework that seeks to both increase mobility over the boundary while ameliorating imbalances on either side of it, is fundamentally different to how borders exist in other parts of the world. The second speaker, Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, George Mason University, USA, spoke passionately on “Borders in the Americas in the Era of Trump: Walls and Closed Borders”, and brought home the effectiveness of Trump’s policy towards the southern border, as Mexico itself is forced to transform into the United States’ border wall, as a condition for remaining in NAFTA, and thus once again recasting the relationship between the two nations. The role of the border here, indeed, suggested the truth of the comparison that Martin van der Velde had drawn.

The third speaker, Serghei Golunov, now at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russia and a Professor at Kyushu University until March of this year, ambitiously sought to bridge the “Theory-Practice Gap in Contemporary Border Studies” by highlighting some of the reasons for the mutual distrust of academics and policy-makers towards each other’s fields of expertise. The talk highlighted how it would be useful for a more intense dialogue between the two traditions to take place. This perspective was also built upon by Akihiro Iwashita in his look at how we are heading “Back to the Future: A world of “fortresses”?”, in which a cyclical pattern of border transition, constantly shifting from ‘open’ to ‘closed’, is deployed in order to make a case for the potential universalization for the discipline. A unique feature of border studies is its multidisciplinarity and ability to go beyond regionalism, and these strengths were reflected in the panel as a whole, which was mentioned by both commentators in their remarks on the session. Questions from the floor focussed on the question of the universal applicability of the study of borders, as well as an engagement with the balance between data and emotion in how we understand borders in the contemporary world. In so doing, they emphasized the central contribution that could be made towards resolving global issues through the study of borders, edges, and liminal spaces.

The contribution of the Ito Commemoration team to the Forum concluded in an afternoon session, OP1-04 Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific, chaired by Yoichiro Sato, in which Edward Boyle spoke on the question of “Envisioning Island Spaces: Integral territory and national fragments”. An intensely debated session returned the border discussion from the abstracted space of the academia to the policy domain, and highlighted the challenges to the borders of the international system posed by the expansion of China, in particular. It provided a fitting conclusion to an intense engagement of borders with questions of security and sustainability, as the various participants split up and heading off to further engagements in Kanazawa and Tokyo.