We tend to think of the world in terms of nations, kingdoms, and empires.
What does the world look like from the margins between states? The field of borderland studies
puts those margins at the center of inquiry. In this course, we will learn how historically
“fuzzy” borderlands in the Asia Pacific region became precisely bordered lands, or in some
cases, disputed territories, in our contemporary world. We will also read from ethnographies
and histories of everyday life to gain a deeper appreciation of life on the edges of the state.
Readings will address a broad swathe of Asia with an emphasis on the borderlands between
various states and the Qing empire as well as its successor states, including the PRC. Case
studies will include Japanese-Ainu relations, Chinese migration to the Mekong delta, the
making of Siam’s modern borders, territorial disputes in Kashmir and Tibet, journeys through
Mongolia, everyday life along the China-Russia border, and more. Our tour of Asian
borderlands is organized into three units as follows:
Unit 1: Frontiers and Borderlands
Unit 2: Borderlands to Bordered Lands
Unit 3: Life in the Borderlands
What will we actually do in this course? This is a seminar, so most of our
time will be devoted to open-ended face-to-face conversation on the
readings. The general pattern of the course is read → reflect → discuss.
You’ll share your thoughts, raise questions, and respond to others during
class time. This is a research seminar, so we’ll pay close attention to how
historians and ethnographers approach research on borderlands and will
direct much of our attention to doing original primary source and
ethnographic research on borderlands. We’ll share our research progress
with one another, particularly toward the end of the semester.

offering time

Fall 22




Mark Frank


Course code


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