Baud, Michiel, and Willem Van Schendel. "Toward a comparative history of borderlands." Journal of World History (1997): 211-242.Look upon your works, ye mighty, and re-do them.
Baud and van Schendel call for a people-first re-framing of borders and boundaries. The rationale being that lines on maps are niceties that often do not reflect the situation on the ground.
International borders are political constructs, imagined projections of territorial power. Although they appear on maps in deceptively precise forms, they reflect, at least initially, merely the mental images of politicians, lawyers, and intellectuals. Their practical consequences are often quite different. No matter how clearly borders are drawn on official maps, how many customs officials are appointed, or how many watchtowers are built, people will ignore borders whenever it suits them.
Since 1997, monitoring technology has become cheaper and more prevalent, seemingly advancing the interests of the states versus the local elites and people. The danger being that: (1) states will be more incented to manage their borders, where the cheapest management solution may be territorial expansion.
And (2), unitary states are believed more persistable as they become more ethnically and culturally homogenous. What steps will states take?
Will exclaves and enclaves agitate for redress? How much irredentism will follow? And how many lines need to move?
Borders create political, social, and cultural distinc tions, but simultaneously imply the existence of (new) networks and systems of interaction across them. The existence of a border is our point of departure, but at the same time we draw attention to the social networks that reach across that border. The paradox of border studies is noted by Sven T?gil and colleagues in their statement that "boundaries separate people (or groups of people) and the separating qualities of boundaries influence interaction between them."14 Stanley Ross also stresses that the Mexican-U.S. border is "a region where two different civilizations face each other and overlap."15
The role of the state was further determined by its relationship with regional elites. When borderland elites were well integrated into networks of state power, they could become important allies of the state in its efforts to control borderland society.
This was the case with the border zomindars (superior landholders and tax collectors) of north eastern British India and the caudillos of Latin American border regions: their local power depended largely on the state, and they were used by the state not only to extract tribute but also to discipline the border regions- Sometimes such elites might also be enlisted for state expansionist projects or espionage. However, borderland elites often remained at least partly detached from the state?for example, in many parts of Latin America, where regionalism formed an effective countervailing force to centralizing tendencies. Here borderland elites retained an independent power base and were in a position to oppose state policies.19 If the state failed to incorporate these elites into the state structure, the result would be either a breakdown of state power in the border regions or an attempt by the state to enforce its territorial claims by means of military force.
The first happened in northern Mexico in the nineteenth century and also during the Mexican Revolution.20 An example of the second process was the ruthless dictatorship of Rafael Le?nidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. One of the first acts of that regime was the assassination in 1934 of Desiderio Arias, a regional caudillo who symbolized the independence of the border region. By dis playing Arias's severed head in the state capital, the Trujillo regime affirmed that the power of the state was paramount even in the remot est corners of the country.
A few years later Trujillo completed the process by ordering the massacre of thousands of Haitians who, accord ing to the official rhetoric, were living "illegally" on Dominican terri tory.21 In contrast, the history of Burma after 1948 is an example of a state completely unable to dominate its borderlands. The Burmese armed forces have been fighting inconclusive wars with separatist re gional elites along the country's huge borderland, which stretches from southern Thailand via China and India to Bangladesh, for nearly half a century. Some of these regional groups, such as the Karen, established separate administrations that fell short of being states only because they lacked international recognition.22
may roughly divide the border region into three geographical zones. First, there is the border heartland, abutting on the border and dom inated by its existence.
Here, social networks are shaped directly by the border, depend on it for their survival, and have no option but to adapt continually to its vagaries. This is what P. de Lapradelle called "le voisinage" and J. R. V. Prescott "the border landscape." The region on the French-Spanish border that Peter Sahlins studied belonged to this zone. Often such regions were peripheral to the development of the central state, but nowadays they may be bustling industrial and urban regions: the Basle region where Germany meets Switzerland and France, the borderland between Singapore and Malaysia, and the U.S. -Mexican borderland (which nowadays boasts some of the fastest grow ing cities of the American continent)25 are cases in point. Second, there is the intermediate borderland, the region that always feels the influence of the border but in intensities varying from moderate to weak. And finally there is the outer borderland, which only under spe cific circumstances feels the effects of the border. It is affected by the existence of the border in the same way that land protected by an embankment is affected by the sea. In daily life the border hardly plays a role at all, but there is always a hint of suspense, a slight tinge of uncertainty. Just as a tidal wave may sweep far into the interior, so a political storm may suddenly engulf this zone and involve it directly in border dynamics. In this way, borderlands may at times, though briefly, stretch to embrace entire countries.
To highlight the temporal aspect of borders and borderlands, we may use an organic metaphor with a long tradition in border studies, that of the "life cycle." We can distinguish five stages in the life cycle of borders.
However, it should not be forgotten that the different stages are ideal types. They do not necessarily follow one upon another in a unilinear fashion, nor do all borders pass through all stages.
The first stage in the borderland life cycle is the infant borderland, which exists just after the border line has been drawn.
Preexisting social and economic networks are still clearly visible, and people on both sides of the border are connected by close kinship links. National identities are still vague and undefined. Regional inhabitants can opt for a future on either side of the border, and some groups may cherish the hope that the new boundary may disappear.
The border is still a potentiality rather than a social reality.
The adolescent borderland is the next stage.
The border has now become an undeniable reality, but its genesis is still recent, and many people remember the period before it existed.
Although economic and social relations are already beginning to be confined by the existence of the new border, old networks have not yet disintegrated and still form powerful links across the border.
In the third stage the border has become a firm social reality: this is the adult borderland. Social networks now implicitly accept and follow the contours of the border. Cross-border social and kin relations may continue to exist, but they become scarcer and are increasingly viewed as problematic. Even new cross-border networks, such as those involved in smuggling, are based on the acceptance of the border.
Sometimes adult borderlands are perceived as "eternal," as part of the natural order handed down by earlier generations.
The border has become so deeply embedded in the minds of those who live in the borderland that questioning it has become almost inconceivable.30 It takes exceptional circumstances to turn such a border from a "natural" fact into a "social" fact. Then, to the surprise of all involved, the bor der is "rediscovered" and in a flurry of ideological fervor invested with new meaning and new legitimacy.
The declining borderland is the result of the border losing its political importance. New cross- or supra-border networks emerge, often ini tially economic in character, and these are no longer seen as a threat to the state. The decline of a borderland can be a fairly peaceful process:
the border gradually withers away, losing its importance for both neighboring states as well as for the population of the borderland.
It may also be a violent process, if the decline is contested and certain groups in the borderland try to stop it to protect their own interests. In some cases they may succeed in halting or even reversing the process of decline; more often they fight a losing battle as the border disinte grates and becomes less and less relevant as an organizing principle in borderland society.
Finally, we can use the term defunct borderland (or the relict bound ary, as it is sometimes called) when a border is abolished and the physical barriers between the two sides of the border are removed.
Border-induced networks gradually fall apart and are replaced by new ones that take no account of the old division.
Some networks are more resilient than others and change at a slower rate. These can maintain themselves for many years, even generations, in which case they may give rise to what J. W. Cole and Eric Wolf have called a hidden frontier.31
Second, only in borderlands is the power of the state also circum scribed by local political networks that (continue to) connect the two sides and are therefore international too. Cross-border political net works allow borderland politicians more leverage with regard to the state than their counterparts in interior regions, as well as access to the political resources of two state units.35 If cross-border political net works are strong, they may successfully defend "border interests" in the two state capitals.
The political project symbolized by the state border is to eliminate such cross-border networks and to make borderland politicians resemble their counterparts in the interior.
Structurally speaking, this is a shared interest of the two neighboring states, and they will often cooperate in stamping out cross-border political net works. When their relations are strained, however, states will use these networks to embarrass or subvert their neighbor.
This is a potentially dangerous line of action because it strengthens the borderland politi cians against the state and may backfire, as in the case of Kashmir, where there was repeated, damaging war between India and Pakistan, as well as a movement for an independent Kashmir.36 Such international connections complicate the triangular power relations between the three social groups in the borderland (state, regional elite, and local people).
It is most helpful to think of these power relations in terms of a double triangle whose points may overlap to a greater or lesser extent, according to how far the two states involved have been able to break up the unity of the elite as well as the "common people" in the borderland (
The Quiet Borderland. If state, regional elite, and local population are knit into a coherent power structure in which tension is relatively low, the borderland is likely to be peaceful. I
The Unruly Borderland. When power structures are less coherent, borderlands are unlikely to be quiescent.
The state may dominate, or have absorbed, a regional elite, but if neither state nor regional elite has established a commanding position over the local population, the borderland will be difficult to control. Local society proves to be unruly, resisting the new social and territorial boundaries and the rules that come with them.
In The Rebellious Borderland. In the case of a rebellious borderland, a regional elite sides with the local population against a state that seeks in vain to impose its authority on a border. The rebellion, led by the regional elite, challenges state control over the borderland, ignores the new border, and attempts to establish a regional counter-government. Such rebellions can be regionalist, separatist, or irredentist in their objectives. If the state is unable to crush the rebellion, the borderland can develop into a separate state with or without international recog nition, or it can be annexed by a neighboring state. An example of a rebellious borderland is the Golden Triangle straddling the borders of China, Laos, Thailand, and Burma. Here various guerrilla groups (ethnic, left-wing, and drug-related) have been fighting state armies and each other for decades in attempts to establish separate states.38
Sometimes a border cuts through an ethnically distinct population, as in the case of the Baluchis (divided by the borders of Iran, Afghani stan, and Pakistan), the Kurds (Turkey, Iraq, Iran), or the Sami or "Lapps" (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia).
Politically these people belong to a state that demands their unswerving loyalty. Ethni cally and emotionally they feel part of another, nonstate entity. If such conflicting loyalties occur within the confines of a single country, they may vary from quite manageable (Frisians in the Netherlands or Cata lans in Spain) to extremely tense (East Timorese in Indonesia, Che chens in Russia). If more than one state is involved, problems multi ply. When states are confronted by what Myron Weiner has called transborder peoples, the central issue is not so much ethnic identity as political loyalty. Weiner suggests that it is primarily the willingness of dominant ethnic groups to share power that determines the loyalty of transborder people.46 Such willingness may be related to the existence of a state in which a transborder people dominates. Baluchis, Kurds, or Sami do not enjoy that position.
But when the borders of Hungary were redrawn after 1918, substantial numbers of Hungarians found themselves minorities in the states of Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. Their subsequent fate was influenced by the relation ships of these states with Hungary and by Hungary's willingness to champion their cause. In other words, it may be useful to distinguish between "state" and "nonstate" transborder people, and in the case of "state" transborder people, to differentiate between those with power ful, active protectors (e.g., the Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia) and those without them (e.g., Albanians in Kosovo).
Ethnic minorities have often used borders to escape discrimination or political repres sion, thereby changing their social and political status and transform ing elements of their culture. On the other hand, we should not under estimate the long-term influence of borders on ethnic divergence.
The emergence of a new umbrella term, Jumma, for ten distinct ethnic groups in the Bangladesh-Burma-India borderland was directly related to military repression that occurred on the Bangladesh side. Related transborder peoples on the Burmese and Indian sides of the borderland were not involved in this ethnic innovation.47
Research on the changing practice and meaning of borders can provide us with valuable clues as to the magnitude and limitations of the most powerful mental construction of the present day world, the nation-state. Borderland studies offer a way of correct ing the distortions inherent in state-centered national histories.
They can be powerful exactly because they dispute the territoriality to which modern states lay claim.