Workshop — Frontier Assemblages: Political Economies of Margins and Resource Frontiers in Asia



WORKSHOP DIRECTORS:

Michael Eilenberg
Associate Professor, Culture and Society, Aarhus University
etnome@cas.au.dk

Jason Cons
Research Assistant Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
jasoncons@utexas.edu

WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS:

Zachary Anderson, PhD Candidate, Geography and Planning, University of Toronto
“Pragmatism and politics: Translating the green economy in an Indonesian frontier”

Young Rae Choi, Graduate Student (Post-Defense), Geography, Ohio State University
“Spaces of sustainability? China’s coastal reclamation boom and the sustainability controversy”

Michael Dwyer, Associate Researcher, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern
“Concession development: Timber financing and risk modulation at Southeast Asia’s upland frontier”

Gökçe Günel, Lecturer in Discipline, Anthropology, Columbia University
“Subsurface Workings: the Production of Carbon Capture and Storage Policy in the United Arab Emirates”

Dolly Kikon, Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Melbourne
“Carbon Connections”

Duncan McDuie-Ra, Associate Dean Research, Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW
“Frontier Land Dynamics and the Private Health Boom in Imphal, Manipur”

Kasia Paprocki, PhD Candidate, Development Sociology, Cornell University
“The Climate Frontier: Political Economies of Shrimp Aquaculture and Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Bangladesh”

Igor Rubinov, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University
“Growing at the margins: Grafting families and trees on a former Soviet frontier”

Jasnea Sarma, PhD Student, Comparative Asian Studies, National University Of Singapore
“Explorations of Space, Time and Political Subjectivities in India and China’s Resource Frontier’s In Myanmar”

Max Woodworth, Assistant Professor, Geography, Ohio State University
“Frontier Landscapes of the Gigantic and the Ghost Town in Ordos, Inner Mongolia”

Jerry Zee, Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis
“Groundwork: Experiments with Environment on a Chinese Airstream”

CALL FOR WORKSHOP PAPERS:

This workshop interrogates the contemporary expansion of so-called resource frontiers into marginal spaces throughout Asia. The past decades have seen a radical and unprecedented transformation in margins—borders, upland areas, and “waste” zones—throughout Asia. Millions of acres of land have been rapidly converted to large-scale, export-oriented monoculture production. Often, though not exclusively, the funding and management of these resource frontiers comes from elsewhere in Asia. We are interested in exploring the implications for the sovereignty, security, and political economy of the states in which these transformations are occurring; the new financial configurations that are driving it; the environmental impact of this expansion in these often ecologically vulnerable zones; and the impacts on the people who live in these rapidly transforming margins.

While scholars have begun to direct attention towards these individual transformations, very little is known about their similarities and differences across space. It is clear that the expansion of palm oil, rubber, aquaculture, and other mono-culture commodities have radically altered territorial sovereignty, ecology, and human security throughout the region. Yet, what similarities and differences do these transformations share? What are the broad and micro dynamics of resource frontier transformation? And what do these shifts portend for margins, which have and continue to be sites of intense securitization, conflict, and expansion? Understanding these dynamics helps to clarify processes that are reshaping the geopolitics of the region and reformatting millions of people’s relationship to land.

We understand the linkages between foreign direct investment, large-scale resource extraction and territorial politics in the margins of Asia as frontier assemblages to engage the multiple meanings and notions associated with regions where resource frontiers and marginal spaces interlock. We use the term “assemblage” to indicate a historically contingent convergence that facilitates expansion into frontier zones. We conceptualize frontiers as, first, a discourse of untouched wilderness and infinite unexploited resources and, second, as moving zones of state control and resource extraction. We see frontier assemblages as projects in the making, which are unstable and in flux. We understand these frontier assemblages as broad, yet historically and spatially specific forms of resource exploitation now unfolding in the margins of Asia.

This workshop interrogates this unprecedented transformation and the complex array of actors, forces, and ecologies that constitute it. We wish to explore four key questions: (1) What are the commonalities and differences in frontier development and resource exploitation across different national borders in Asia; (2) What kinds of framings of “space” and “territory” legitimatize and mobilize expansion into frontier zones and subsequent land enclosures; (3) what kinds of capital flows and financial configurations are mobilized to produce new resource frontiers; (4) and how do largescale development schemes in marginal areas articulate with projects of national security, sovereignty, and state-formation in different geopolitical contexts?

We invite participation from scholars working on, but not limited to, such topics as:

  • The development of new export processing zones;
  • The financialization of new extractive economies;
  • The political ecology of resource extraction;
  • Land grabbing and land dynamics in frontier zones;
  • The dynamics of new plantation economies.