Between Asias: inter-regional spaces

On 16 December 2017, Kyushu University Border Studies will host a conference on “Between Asias”, which will seek to examine the spaces falling between the cracks of Asian regions, and how a liminal identity, or sense of ‘between-ness’, comes to be articulated in such spaces. It will also examine how the presence of such spaces affects notions of Asia’s regions, as well as their interactions with one another.

For more details, please see HERE

“All Hands on Deck?” Border Studies Seminar

We will host our 10th Border Studies Seminar on November 29, 2017. This will comprise three great talks focusing on the South China Sea and maritime boundary issues in Asia.

For more details, please see the poster HERE.


All hands on deck? Navigating Asia’s new security seascape

“Debating ASEAN’s Role in Regional Security: A Discursive Approach to the South China Sea Disputes”

Stéphanie Martel (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia/McGill University)


“China’s Maritime Administration and its Impact on Asian Waters”

Chisako T. Masuo (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)


“Emerging China and Southeast Asia: ASEAN at a turning point?”

Keiko Tsuji Tamura (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Kitakyushu)


November 29     17:00 – 19:30


Denki Building 3F

Watanabedōri 2-1-82, Chūō-ku,

Fukuoka-shi, 810-0004


Organized by:    Kyushu University Border Studies (KUBS)

                          Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies (CAFS)

                           Kyushu University Inter-disciplinary Colloquiums

                           Association for Borderlands Studies Japan Chapter

Nuclear Weapons and the Future of North Korea

On September 5, the 9th Asia-Pacific Border Studies Seminar on Nuclear Weapons and the Future of North Korea was held by the Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies of Kyushu University. Professor Yong-Chool Ha (Washington State University) was the speaker and Professor Akihiro Iwashita was a commentator. The seminar was moderated by Professor Jong Seok Park.

In his presentation, Professor Ha suggested that the current crisis will result to some compromise soon and called for going beyond the issue of denuclearization while discussing the current Korean crisis. He suggested to put the North Korean economic future in the conflict resolution context. While currently Pyongyang prioritizes legitimization of its nuclear status above all, it still should choose an economic development model after the compromise will be achieved.  Thus, North Korean economic future could be discussed during negotiations.

Anyway, current economic and social conditions of North Korea are changing towards greater role of the private market. Among economic options that Pyongyang will have, South Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, East European, and Russian models were mentioned in the presentation (the South Korean model was particularly highlighted as potentially suitable). The choice that North Korea should make likely will not be easy, taking into account unfavorable international environment, scarceness of domestic material resources, and emergence of strong elite groups based on economic power and connections with masses. In particular, one cannot exclude that despite the regime will manage to boost its legitimacy in the short-term run, long-term internal socio-economic challenges could trigger either “palace coup d’etat”, or military coup d’etat, or revolt based on elite-mass coalition.

After making his presentation, Professor Ha responded other participants’ questions. Answering Professor Iwashita’s question about whether the North Korean nuclear strategy is similar to the Pakistani one, Professor Ha highlighted such differences of the North Korean case as Pyongyang’s political isolation and bad relations with the USA and also the multilateral character of the Korean nuclear crisis unlike bilateral character of the Indo-Pakistan crisis. Responding other Professor Iwashita’s question, the presenter also noted that assassination of Kim Jong Un can have potentially dangerous consequences if no evident successor is available: it could lead to serious internal conflict that could involve external powers (such as the USA and China). Answering Professor Iwashita’s and Professor Park’s questions about the agenda of potential negotiations on the current crisis Professor Ha suggested that Pyongyang regime’s security, withdrawal of U.S. troops from the South Korea, economic assistance, and non-proliferation will likely will be the key issues. It will not be easy to achieve a compromise, as some of these potential demands could be unacceptable for the USA and its partners (e.g. the withdrawal of U.S. troops can lead to the annexation of South Korea by the North, as Professor Park suggested) while highly desirable not only for North Korea itself but also by China. At the same time, Pyongyang most likely will not agree to give up its nuclear weapons on any terms.

(Trans) Border Security

On August 14, in the midst of the Obon Holiday break, the KUBS crew were in the office for the 8th Asia-Pacific Border Studies seminar. We were fortunate enough to welcome three speakers to share their thoughts with us on a number of issues relating to regionalism, security architecture, national strategy and popular geopolitics, and were treated to a fascinating discussion regarding the situation in Asia’s North East.

Our first speaker, David Welch (Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo), spoke to us on the topic of “Regional Order in Northeast Asia”. He offered a broad overview of a number of ‘regions’ present in the world today, providing a number of metrics through which to compare them, and spoke about the possibilities for regionalism involving Japan and its continental neighbors through the prism of ‘East Asia’. David was fairly down on the prospects for the emergence of an institutionalized regionalism within East Asia, a conclusion which also tallies with the findings of the NIHU-backed research group into North-East Asia, with which our Center is involved. It was interesting to reflect upon the nested and overlapping character of some of the regions picked out by David, and reflect upon their significance for the international situation in the future.

Our second speaker, Jaroslaw Janczak (European University Viadrina & Adam Mickiewicz University, and currently a research fellow at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University) spoke to us about the “Geopolitical models and Geostrategies of Russia in Eurasia”, focusing in particular on the various conceptions of the border being deployed at Russia’s eastern and western limits. As he noted, Russia’s post-Soviet situation has been characterized by various forms of borders coming into and winking out of existence, and that the structure of the current geopolitical situation has led Russia to behaving far more actively in the West, while appearing to adopt a clear ‘boundarization’ in the East. Appreciating this distinction visible at the extreme edges of the polity is of great value in attempting to analyze it as a single entity.

Our third speaker, Seung Hyok Lee (Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), reflected on the “Challenge of the ‘North Korean factor’ to Japanese-South Korean Relations and Northeast Asia”. The central focus was the question of popular influence on the foreign policy process, and in particular how the images held within Japan and South Korea of the other’s relations with North Korea affected relations between the two in the 2000s. As he noted, it was significant that these seemed predetermined within a structural dynamic that continued to hold into the present.

The topics of the three talks complemented one another nicely, and provided plenty of fodder for the extensive discussion that occurred between the speakers and those in attendance. We thank all those in attendance and look forward to our next event soon.



Summer Border Seminar on (Trans) Border Security

Kyushu University Border Studies will host the 8th Asia-Pacific Border Studies Seminar on “(Trans) Border Security” in Northeast Asia in the middle of August. We are delighted to be welcoming to Fukuoka three distinguished speakers, who will share their thoughts on security architecture, Russia’s security vision, and the North Korean question in Japan. The event will be held at Kyushu University’s Nishijin Plaza from 15:30 – 18:00 on 14 August 2017. 

Further details are available HERE.

Report on “China’s New Agenda as a Global Power”

On Monday the 10th of July, KUBS and the Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies hosted its 7th Asia Pacific Border Studies seminar in partnership with Kyushu University’s Inter-disciplinary Colloquium. The venue was the meeting rooms of the Business Communications Library (BIZCOLI) in downtown Fukuoka, selected as something of an experiment to bridge the divide that exists between Kyushu University’s two campuses, prior to them being reunited later next year. We here at KUBS would like to express our gratitude to Professor Edward Vickers and Aya Yonemitsu for helping us get the event off the ground.

For the event, we were delighted to welcome to Fukuoka Professor Paul Evans of the Institute of Asian Research & Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia. As well as a distinguished China scholar, Professor Evans is a regional specialist in East Asia, where as an advocate of cooperative and human security, he has long been involved in promoting policy-related activity on track-two security processes and the construction of multilateral institutions. 


The event offered an opportunity to hear Professor Evans’ insights into how the multiple dimensions at which China’s growing presence makes itself felt in the world, and the reactions to that presence in a number of countries, focussing particularly on Canada and Singapore. As he noted, while the questions of investment, infrastructural development and possible future military confrontation are much discussed, there are other dimensions to China’s influence that receive less attention. Some of those he highlighted included examples of state-led soft power leveraged through cultural and public diplomacy, the ever-increasing volume of Chinese moving out into the world as students, tourists, business travellers, and temporary workers, and the considerable asset offered by the presence of overseas Chinese in many countries and their better and more regular connections with both each other, and family and organizations back in China. This last factor spoke to the effect of the dramatic change in telecommunications, which has made it possible for those outside the country to remain ‘plugged-in’ to it in a manner simply not feasible even a decade ago, and made the holding of the seminar in a Business Communications Library a particularly apt choice.

Professor Evans made clear that while such dimensions of Chinese influence offered a tremendous opportunity for China, they were the subject of debate in both Beijing and abroad. In Beijing, there remains debate over how best to capitalize on these potential sources of influence, as seen in the recently-concluded debate over whether China would allow dual-nationality or not. Abroad, meanwhile, the key question for foreign governments is whether and how to respond to concerns over growing Chinese influence and the policy challenges of doing so.


Some of the issues with which policymakers in Singapore and Canada were forced to grapple with were also reflected in the other two papers, which sought to flesh out the effects and reaction to China’s growing clout in Indonesia and Russia respectively. Professor Nobuhiro Aizawa examined the recent phenomenon of illegal and temporary Chinese workers being brought to Indonesia, and the reaction this had sparked within the domestic media and political landscape. As something of a contrast, however, in Russia the increasing influence of China appears, at least, to be the cause of much less alarm in the last few years than a decade or so ago, despite the fact that on almost any available metric the Chinese presence has expanded greatly in the time. This of course reflects the wider geopolitical situation in which these countries find themselves, and it would be interesting to see whether this official and media shift is being reflected at the more popular level, an issue with which the presenter, Professor Serghei Golunov, intends to get to grips with in the future.


Following the three papers, an open discussion was held which provided an opportunity for a number of students in attendance, many of them Chinese or of Chinese heritage, to comment on some of the issues that were raised during the course of the seminar. A couple of them pointed to the role of social media and the internet, and noted that even when outside China, there was a strong inertia which kept them anchored to platforms and publications that operated within the country itself. This keeps them very keyed into events going on back home, on the one hand, while serving to maintain a view of the world that is still filtered through the limits of what is considered acceptable discourse in China. The most satisfying takeaway from the seminar, indeed, was the willingness of some of these young scholars to seek to question those very limits.


The 7th Asia-Pacific Border Studies Seminar on “China’s New Agenda as a Global Power”

Our 7th Asia-Pacific Border Studies Seminar will be held as a Kyushu University Inter-Disciplinary Colloquium into “China’s New Agenda as a Global Power”. It will feature three talks seeking to capture different aspects and geographies of China’s rise. 

Our guest speaker, Professor Paul Evans of the University of British Columbia, will talk on “The Changing Pattern of Chinese Presence and Influence in Asia Pacific: Lessons from Canada and Singapore” and share his insights into the intellectual and policy issues posed by the multi-dimensional activities of Chinese networks, both governmental and private, in the two countries in question. 

Our second speaker, Professor Nobuhiro Aizawa of Kyushu University, will introduce us to an exciting new project he is undertaking into the pattern of Chinese overseas investment into Indonesia, under the title of “Contemporary Politics of Chinese Workers Abroad: an Indonesian fiasco”.

Finally, KUBS’s very own Professor Serghei Golunov, will speak about the role of Chinese workers in Russia’s pivot to Asia, examining both official and popular perceptions. The session promises to offer a useful insight into China’s efforts to expand her influence overseas and the varied responses it provokes, and provide some necessary nuance to developments associated with its One Belt One Road policy.

UBC Workshop on Borderwork in Northeast Asia

On April 12, 2017, ABSj chair and Hokkaido University professor Naomi Chi and KUBS’s Edward Boyle were at the University of British Columbia to promote National Institute for the Humanities (NIHU) Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia being run by Hokkaido University, and explain the role taken by Kyushu University in the project under the aegis of their own Progress100 funding. The Institute for Asian Research provided a collegial atmosphere for setting out the details of the project, the Kyushu University portion of which will be conducted with several UBC colleagues, including Professor Paul Evans, who facilitated this event, and to whom the two presenters offer their gratitude.

Following the project introduction, both speakers were granted the opportunity to introduce their own research and show how it fitted into wider narratives on northeast Asia. Naomi Chi’s presentation examined marriage migration in East Asia, focussing on the structural inhibitions as well as the individual difficulties that affected such unions. The talk made clear that any desire to institutionalize a northeast Asian region would require more than merely the greater circulation of national populations. Similarly, Edward Boyle’s look at “The Changing Shape of Japan: territorial disputes and remapping borders” highlighted how notions of regionalism could be used to highlight converging patterns of disputation as well as cooperation, as regional actors at a variety of levels came to reflect one another in stoking a spiral of conflict over seemingly remote territorial scraps. Again, any efforts at regional cooperation must make use of a security architecture able to incorporate such issues, as otherwise integration takes place even as such disputes continue to fester.

The response to the project introduction was good, and we at KUBS are looking forward to hosting each of Paul Evans, Sara Shneiderman and Stéphanie Martel in Kyushu at various points over the next ten months.

Edward Boyle’s report on the Association for Borderlands Studies annual meeting

San Francisco provided a wonderful backdrop to this year’s Western Social Science Association conference, under the umbrella of which the ABS annual meeting took place on April 12-15, 2017. The conference appeared better-attended than the previous year’s at Reno, although still did suffer from a number of panels that lacked a quorum of presenters able to make them worthwhile.

KUBS’s Edward Boyle was involved in two particular panels at the conference. The first was as part of the ongoing Borders in Globalization initiative, headed up by Victor Konrad (Carlton University) and Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly (University of Victoria) and involving over twenty partner institutions around the world. The project involves the production of a number of country case studies on borders around the world, and the meeting provided a forum for a number of these case study authors to outline the borders they would be dealing with and the challenges of writing to the template provided by the project. The first panel in this series consisted of Japan’s border paired with those of Mexico, presented by Tony Payan, and provided the audience with an opportunity to understand the parameters within which the project would occur. As it happened, both presenters took the opportunity to delve a little deeper into the historical backgrounds of the borders of their respective countries, providing some historical depth to a border studies that occasionally feels far too presentist in orientation.

This work dovetailed nicely with a second panel proposed by Edward Boyle on ‘Creasing the map – borders and migration in the Asia-Pacific’, which sought to examine the functioning of borders in the Asia-Pacific in the light of two decades of studying borders that have clarified that the representation of borders as lines on the land provides a poor map to how borders function in practice. It was argued that the contrast drawn between the static borderline and mobile migrant works to conceal mobile practices of border enforcement and the way they come into contact with the ‘surfeit of arrows’ that represent the movements of migrants. The aim was to represent both borders and movement on the same conceptual map, and thus contribute to a new cartography of the states of the Asia-Pacific and the region as a whole. This was particularly apparent in Josh Watkins’ (UC Davis) examination of the outsourcing of Australian border security to ‘maintain’ potential migrants in home or third countries through the provision of minimal sustenance as aid, a process which has effectively pushed Australia’s border enforcement strategy out beyond the region over the last thirty years.

This goal, however, proved a rather ambitious one for the presentation on “Island Borderlines: Mapping points of enforcement in the Japanese Archipelago”, which focused its attention on the contrast between the static borders coming to be represented on maritime spaces when indicating the state of the nation, and the fluid territories undulating beneath them. Its attention to the outer limits, the skin of the national body, though, served to provide an excellent engagement with the ideas that the panel’s commentator, Franck Billé (UC Berkeley), had set out in his panel on ‘Skinworlds’ the previous day, speaking to both his concern with the state’s corporality and Paul Richardson’s look at the sovereign hyperreal. There were clear indications here of a future research direction.

Edward Boyle’s report on the Political Geography Speciality Group pre-conference at Harvard University (4 April 2017) and the AAG’s Annual Conference in Boston (5-9 April 2017)

The Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers was held this year in Boston, and for the 30th year was preceded by a pre-conference organized by the Political Geography Speciality Group of the AAG, this year held in the hallowed halls of Harvard University. The latter event has expanded substantially in recent years, a fact rather lamented by many of those participants who had long attended, but one that certainly testifies to the perceived importance of the political in geography and its wider resonance at present. The expansion in the platform provided in this preconference is down to the hard work of Natalie Koch (Syracuse University) and Kenneth Madsen (Ohio State University), who also found occasion to distribute cake and supply fantastic 80s sunglasses to the participants, contributing greatly to the friendly atmosphere generated at what remains a collegial event.

Edward Boyle’s paper, “Border Layers: peeling back the India-Bangladesh border”, appeared in Session V on ‘Borders’, chaired by Reece Jones and consisting of five papers. Mia Bennett’s (UCLA) look at infrastructural nationalism in Russia zoomed in on infrastructure being planned and constructed around Yakutsk, capital of the vast Sakha Republic in Siberia. Beautifully mapped and illustrated with the presenter’s photos, the talk sought to bring out the role of nationalism within infrastructural development occurring in Russia’s remote East, while emphasizing the contradictory results of Crimean annexation, which have seen an upsurge in nationalism together with a decline in an ability to fund the nation’s crumbling infrastructure in other parts of the country. Edward Boyle’s paper was also decorated by photos taken at the India-Bangladesh border, and sought to illustrate how the spectral presence of the borderline is recreated at the various scales in which this border functions, or is made operable. Rather than seeing the border as existing differently at different scales, the presentation sought to go back to this line as providing the ontological foundations for broader discourses invoking this national border. Galen Murton’s (University of Colorado, Boulder) look at Chinese hydropower investment in Nepal similarly focused attention on the different scales at which the same border appeared to exist, while Peter Wood’s (Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais) look at interventions on the Brazilian border also emphasized the transnational existence of the national border across a variety of issues. Finally, Jasnea Sarma (National University of Singapore) and Evan Centanni’s (Political Geography Now) effort to map the shatter-zone of the China-Myanmar borderland sought to provide a more accurate picture of an area of unchecked insurgencies and investment at China’s edge.

The growth of the event meant an increase in overlapping sessions and therefore a greater number of hard choices to be made regarding what else to take in, but excellent presentations abounded. The post-event dinner provided a great way to further interact with those similarly engaged with questions of space and power, and discussions continued long into the night.

The following day saw the opening of the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers in Boston, with Edward Boyle part of the session organized by Sarah Salazar Hughes (UCLA) and Josh Watkins (UC Davis) on “(Extra)territoriality: re-examining territorial control within and beyond state borders”. Opening somewhat brutally at 8am on the first day of the conference, this first section of the session looked at ‘Occupation, disputed territory and geopolitics’ and consisted of a set of papers digging in to questions of the new materiality of territories and how they should be bound. Johanne Bruun’s (Durham University) polished paper looked at the manner in which the dynamic environment of the Greenland ice sheet was constructed as a fixed territory of military operations under the aegis of the 1955 US scientific expedition in the context of the Cold War, extending the notion of territory down to the molecular level. The presentation by Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway) and Chih Yuan Woon (National University of Singapore) offered the opening stages of their new project on China’s dredging up territory in the South China Sea, with the different territorial conceptions and contestations between them coming into focus as a new geopolitics. Christine Carolan (University of Oregan) looked at the transfer of Lough Neagh our of private ownership to one owned by the community as being celebrated by Sinn Fein as a ‘winning’ of territory in the context of continued contestation over Northern Ireland’s political destiny. Edward Boyle’s “Inaccessible yet integral territory: Japan’s territorial disputes and their sovereign implications” also offered glimpses of a project at an early stage, which sought to analyse the implications for notions of territory that stemmed from Japan’s recent prosecution of its island disputes. Sara Hughes’ examination of territorial control in the West Bank similarly spoke to the reconfiguration of territory as ‘unbound’ in the context of the Israeli occupation.

Moderated again by the long-suffering Reece Jones, the panel offered an excellent introduction to the session, which was followed by two more sections examining ‘Migration, refugees, and securitization’ and ‘tourism and other industry, zones of encounter, and the role of the state’ in turn. Particular highlights from here included Kira Williams’ fascinating application of Elden’s notion of imperio to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, pointing to how, far from being excluded from the legal order in the manner suggested by Agamben, a process of legal inclusion was necessary for their subsequent exclusion from limits of the state, and Francis Collins’ examination of the bureaucratic encounters by migrants as indicating the spaces within which contemporary citizenship is made. As a whole, the session offered a particularly effective examination of shifting territorial practices within the modern world, a fact which reflected the hard work of the two organizers in putting the session together. In particular, efforts to examine the fluidity of territorial notions and their reflection through patterns of movement dovetailed with the timely and necessary concern of the AAG as a whole with questions of migration and its current political mobilization in Europe, the United States, and beyond.