Bordered spaces

Spatial strategies in a “disputed border”

Authored by: Gohain Swargajyoti

Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138917507
eBook ISBN: 9781315688978
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter goes beyond the common notion of borderlands as hybrid zones of movement, fusion, and fluidity by exploring the particular dynamics in a special kind of border region, namely, the disputed border region. By disputed border, I mean not only a linear boundary line whose exact position is contested, but an entire border region that is claimed by both the nation states between which it lies, and which remains highly militarized. Based on my research in a disputed border in the northeast frontier of India, namely the Eastern sector in the India-China border conflict, I show how social relations and practices in the disputed border complicate the notion of borderlands as spaces of flows. Subjected to surveillance and cultural integration programmes, people in disputed borders adopt different strategies for adapting and negotiating daily lives and identities. Rather than defying the state, people in disputed areas accommodate and compromise with the “state effect”. I focus on a political struggle for autonomy in the disputed border of west Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India to show how in such a region, a proposal for territorial change is also a negotiation with and adaptation to constitutionally circumscribed goals.

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