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Living with borders: a trans-Asian ethnography of mobility across Myanmar’s borderlands with India and China

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at 4:30pm

Rockefeller Hall, 374
Central Campus

Asian borders are often sites of division, surveillance, and militarization that usurp histories of indigenous sovereignty and fluid mobility, even as they are developed as zones of superficial connectivity. Against these spectacles, ordinary people escape and cross borders every day, often in illicit, unspectacular ways. For example, in the late 1980s, a network of transnational 'rebel' organizations facilitated the clandestine movement of Kachin children across Myanmar's borders into China and India for safekeeping. Undertaking dangerous journeys and dodging multiple security regimes, the children lived most of their lives as ‘illegal’ transnational subjects, only to return decades later to a distant war-torn 'homeland.' Building on a book project that assembles such oral histories and ethnographies of mobility across Myanmar’s borderlands, this talk explores what trans-Asia might mean when seen from the border-worlds of Asia. In doing so, it shows the production of Asian spaces and identities that do not sit comfortably within the boundaries of area studies.

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Event Type



Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program, South Asia Program


Jasnea Sarma

Speaker Affiliation

Senior Lecturer, University of Zurich

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