This year's ABS Annual Conference in Portland attracted one of the highest attendances on record, with members coming from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, as well as North and South America. A reflection of the Association's broadening appeal was an increasing cross-listing of ABS panels with other sections of the Western Social Science Association, particularly Asian Studies. It demonstrates the widening scope of the ABS, while at the same time the connection with Latin American Studies was maintained and there were several panels held in Spanish for specialists focusing on the U.S.-Mexico border and other borders in the region.
The conference saw a number of sessions combining theoretical and empirical accounts, as well as a special session entitled "A Walled World?" Borders, Walls, and Resistance. This panel brought together a group of experts, including Professor Michael Dear of UC Berkeley, to discuss the unintended and uncertain political, social, and cultural consequences of bordering communities and building walls. It featured fascinating insights into the US-Mexico borderlands, the European Union, the Middle East, and Russia in order to compare disparate geographical locales as well as the policy failures and immense waste of resources behind building walls and fences.
There were a growing percentage of panels at the conference which linked case-studies to broader theoretical debates. However, this was not at the expense of panels addressing the local, regional, and global problems of borders through the use of detailed, empirical research. There were a number of panels presenting critical contemporary insights into issues of borders and migration; resource management; environmental degradation; minorities; cities; security; identity; as well as new perspectives towards resolving territorial disputes.
In this year's programme, the organisers were particularly pleased to welcome innovative engagements with different media, which included a photo exhibition from the University of Washington's ischool; the screening of the latest film from Hokkaido University "Unknown Tales from the Border" series; as well as a panel devoted to literary representations of borders.
With the rise in membership of the ABS there has been a corresponding increase in the richness and diversity of the papers and panels that we see at the Annual Conference. This year the trend continued and the spectacular landscape of the Pacific Northwest provided a suitable background to the dynamic and growing field of Border Studies.