Public Events

Fifth Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network
Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities and Flows
Social Science Baha, International Institute for Asian Studies, & the Asian Borderlands Research Network

Keynote Address
Patricia Uberoi

Gender, Trade and New Connectivities: Reflections on India’s Northeastern Borderlands
5.45–6.45 pm, 12 December, 2016 (Monday), Kumari Hall, Hotel Annapurna, Durbar Marg, Kathmand

This presentation draws on my personal and institutional experience of several years’ engagement with a ‘Track II’ initiative in sub-regional integration known as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM). Deploying the rhetoric of the historical ‘Southern Silk Route’, the BCIM seeks to link Kunming in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan to the Indian port city of Kolkata through northern Myanmar, northeastern India, and Bangladesh. As with other such initiatives, the BCIM assumes that trade facilitation through improved transportation infrastructure will automatically result in the overall and socially inclusive economic development of the sub-region concerned, a ‘win-win’ outcome for all. In this presentation, I seek to highlight a social development issue – the relationship of gender and trade – which has been almost completely neglected in the calculi of the costs and benefits of cross-border connectivity projects in this unique region at the intersection of East, Southeast and South Asia, but which has an intimate bearing, both direct and indirect, on the welfare of women and children.

As is well known, in many parts of the world marketing activities are undertaken conspicuously, even predominantly, by women, who operate more or less independently of their husbands and within qualitatively different risk structures, often substituting labour for capital and contributing importantly to linking producers with wider local and global commercial networks. A number of ethnographic studies on the roles of market women have been conducted in regions where women traders have been particularly prominent: in Africa (especially West Africa), the Caribbean, Latin America and, increasingly, Southeast Asia. Strangely, and notwithstanding the traditionally high visibility of women in markets and trading enterprises in the region, there are very few studies of the role of trading women in India’s Northeast. In fact, the prominence of women in trade is a typical characteristic of northeastern communities in India that is shared with communities (many of them ethnically closely related) through Southeast Asia, as well as in China’s southwestern provinces populated by a high proportion of ‘minority’ peoples.

In this inaugural presentation, I will seek to draw lessons from the comparative literature on the role of ‘trading women’, traditionally and in relation to new global trade networks and value chains, and to piece together the miscellaneous scraps of data at hand with a view to commending this field as one of present and future importance in the context of Asian borderland studies.
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Patricia Uberoi is currently Chairperson and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Delhi. A sociologist by training, Dr Uberoi has taught Sociology at the University of Delhi and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and retired as Professor of Social Change and Development at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. Her research interests centre on aspects of family, kinship, gender, popular culture and social policy in respect to both India and China.

In addition to her monograph on themes of family, kinship and marriage through various genres of Indian popular, Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India (2006), she has edited Family, Kinship and Marriage in India (1993), Social Reform, Sexuality and the State (1996), Tradition, Pluralism and Identity (co-ed., 1999), Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Sociology and Anthropology (co-ed., 2007), Marriage, Migration and Gender (co-ed., 2008), Rise of the Asian Giants: Dragon-Elephant Tango (ed., 2008) (edited); and co-authored with Kishan S. Rana India’s North East States, the BCIM Forum and Regional Integration (2012).

Entry to the event is free and open to everyone who registers with the conference. 

Public Lecture
Sanjib Baruah

Bringing the Frontier Back in: Borderland Studies and Northeast India
5.30–6.15 pm, 13 December, 2016 (Tuesday), Kumari Hall, Hotel Annapurna, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu

Frontiers’ and ‘borders’ have some meaning in common but they are not alike. Thanks to the thriving field of Borderland Studies, we understand Northeast India much better today than we did some years ago. But Borderland Studies leaves out a number of themes classically associated with the frontier. Northeast India was a geopolitical frontier of British Imperial India and it became one in independent India. It has had a long history as a settlement frontier, and as a resource frontier as well. Frontiers are often portrayed as zones of disorder, danger and risk. The place name ‘North East India’ itself has its roots in such a constructed geography of danger. Such representations enable power configurations that tolerate the use of lethal violence. The story line about Northeast India is changing. But it is unlikely that the region will overcome its frontier predicament any time soon.

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Sanjib Baruah is an honorary research professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and Professor of political studies at Bard College in the United States, where he teaches comparative politics and international relations.

Dr Baruah was born in Shillong, a hill station in northeast India, and educated at Cotton College in Guwahati, Assam, the University of Delhi, and the University of Chicago

Entry to the event is free and open to everyone who registers with the conference. 

Opening of Photo Exhibition

Wayfinding: A Photoethnography of Indigenous Migration
by Andrzej Markiewicz, Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson

6.15–6.45 pm, 13 December, 2016 (Tuesday)

Anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson collaborated with photographer Andrzej Markiewicz to trace Indigenous migrants from the borderland of Northeast India between 2013 and 2015.

Kikon and Karlsson are working on a book manuscript, Leaving the Land: Indigenous Migration from the Resource Frontier to the Urban Sprawl in India. This exhibition is part of a research project titled The Indian Underbelly at Stockholm University.

The photoethnography exhibition will be opened by a musical performance by Ronid Chingangbam. 

All events are free and open to those who have registered. Seating is first-come-first-seated.