The Art of Neighbouring
1–2 March 2012, ARI, Singapore
Convenors: Martin Saxer & Zhang Juan
Administration: Valerie Yeo
What does China’s rise mean for its immediate neighbours? This is the question the ARI workshop “The Art of Neighbouring” adressed. Reflecting on the PRC’s rapid economic growth, its strategic decisions to foster trade, secure influence and access to natural resources, and its efforts to prevent unrest in the borderlands, the workshop focused on how people’s lives and futures are affected by living along the PRC’s borders.
For local societies situated within zones of contact, the close proximity to the PRC is becoming increasingly relevant. As rising China (the nation, the notion, the buzzword) channels aspirations, triggers fears, and creates opportunities, “the art of neighbouring” becomes a crucial skill in the borderlands – a skill that includes evading, openly opposing, making use of, or renegotiating the border situation.
The shared experience of neighbouring is shaped by the making of borders and their “closures” and “openings”. In the first half of the 20th century, the fuzziness of erstwhile frontier zones was replaced by sharp contours of the ‘geo-bodies’ of nation states. Political and military conflicts between the PRC and its neighbouring states brought many long-established trans-border relations to a halt; more recently, new stimuli of economic growth and material prosperity readily impelled a momentum of “opening up”. As ancient crossroads emerge as zones of contact and translation again, borderland communities actively engage with new possibilities; they also become targets of new regulatory regimes to “manage” the flows of people and goods between nation states.
The workshop explored the ways in which the closure and re-opening of China’s borders condition the myriad realities of making as well as being China’s neighbours through peace and turmoil. We see it as the beginning of a continuing reflection on the topic. By theorizing “the art of neighbouring” we intend to develop an alternative perspective on border practices and strategies and gain new understandings of the relations between nations, territories, geo-political positionalities, and historical connections.
Programme and Abstracts:
All talks were recorded and can be downloaded here as MP3. Abstracts are included in the programme.
Uradyn Bulag, University of Cambridge, UK
A World Community of Neighbourhood in the Making: The Cosmopolitics of Mongolia’s ‘Third Neighbour’ Diplomacy
Franck Billé, University of Cambridge, UK
Between East and West? Trade, Modernity and Representation on the Russian-Chinese Border
Hyunjoon Shin, Sungkonghoe University, South Korea
The Transformation of Greater Tumen Transborder Space and the Mobility of Koreans
Chris Vasantkumar, Hamilton College, USA
Pilgrims of Development?: Trans-Himalayan Tibetan Migrants in the Borderlands of Belonging
Max Hirsh, Harvard University, USA
“Upstream” Air Travel: Mapping Transborder Passenger Flows in the Pearl River Delta
Tina Harris, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Big Traders, Border Ghosts, and Sino-Indian Reconnections
Martin Saxer, Asia Research Institute, Singapore
Remote Cosmopolitans: Rethinking Trans-Himalayan Trade
Pál Nyíri, Vrije Universiteit, The Netherlands
Enclaves of Improvability: Sovereignty and Modernity in the Special Zones of the Burma-Lao Borderlands
Renaud Egreteau, The University of Hong Kong
“China Is Paradise”: Migration and Diasporic Solidarities among Burmese Muslim Traders in the Yunnan-Burma/Myanmar Borderlands
Henryk Alff, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Trading on Change: Modernisation and Recent Dynamics of Shuttle Trade in the Borderlands of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang
Tom Cliff, Australian National University
Frontier “Constructors”—At the Heart of the Nation?
Zhang Juan, Asia Research Institute, Singapore
Neighboring in Anxiety along the China-Vietnam Border
Magnus Fiskesjö, Cornell University, USA
China’s Animal Neighbors
Chris LYTTLETON (Macquarie University, Australia)
Promiscuous Capitalism Meets ‘Exotic’ Ethnicity: Intimate Aspirations Amongst Cross-Border Chinese Dai
The workshop was accompanied by a small photo exhibition with images by Dru Gladney, Tom Cliff, and Martin Saxer.
All photographs © Kwan Wai Hung, ARI 2012