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International Symposium "Contesting Territories: Sovereignty, Tourism and Aesthetics" (November 23, 2015)

International Symposium "Contesting Territories: Sovereignty, Tourism and Aesthetics" (November 23, 2015)

   The international symposium, "Contesting Territories: Sovereignty, Tourism and Aesthetics" was held at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan on November 23. The event was hosted by the Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies at Kyushu University and UBRJ at the Slavic Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University.

   The symposium consisted of one keynote lecture and two panels. One of the most distinguished political geographers, Prof. John Agnew (UCLA), gave a keynote titled, "Geopolitics in the age of globalization." This session was chaired by Dr. Paul Richardson (University of Manchester) and Prof. Takashi Yamazaki (Osaka City University) gave his comments. Prof. Agnew touched upon how transnational fluidity and networks have been the focus of attention in the global age, however, we have yet to overcome the hierarchy of states in reality. Therefore, he emphasized the importance of geopolitics and the understanding of the world through a spatial perspective even in the age of globalization, since there is a significant gap between regions that have been and have not been affected by globalization. Prof. Yamazaki in his comments mentioned the birth of "failed states" despite the globalization of world economy, and the need to establish the geopolitics of peace in order to correspond to economic bipolarization and the threat of terrorism.

   In the second session titled, "Challenges to Sovereignty: Practicing Contested Territories" there were two speakers, including Prof. Akihiro Iwashita (Hokkaido Univ.) and Prof. Sangjin Shim (Gyeongi Univ.) and was chaired by Prof. Naomi Chi (Hokkaido Univ.). Prof. Iwashita talked about the two cases of "contested" territories in Japan, namely the northern territories and the American bases in Okinawa, and how the Japanese central government emphasizes the sovereignty over these two areas, but the local people who are affected in Nemuro and Okinawa do not have any say in the matter. One of the importance of border studies is to incorporate the voices of the local people to practice, therefore, Prof. Iwashita touched upon the role that border tourism could play in bringing attention and fostering interests to these contested areas. Prof. Shim looked at one of the most contested areas in the world, the Korean peninsula, and talked about the Mount Gumgang project, the tour project to North Korea, between 1989 to 2008. He emphasized that the role of border tourism in the Korean peninsula was crucial, as it brought means to bring aid to North Koreans and enabled the meeting between divided families separated since the Korean War. Border tourism in the Korean peninsula was crucial in bringing about harmony between the two Koreas and we were able to obtain insights to the possibilities of border tourism in other regions of the world.

   In the third session titled, "Border Aesthetics: Art at/along the Border" chaired by Mr. Ted Boyle (Kyushu Univ.) looked at the role of art and artists to critically analysis existing borders through aesthetics. The three speakers, Prof. Anne-Laure Amihat-Szary (Univ. of Grenoble), Mr. Abdalla Omari (artist from Syria), and Ms. Mahsa Mergenthaler (Persian Art Curator) all looked at how artists look at the aesthetical value of the border, and how they critically capture the realities of the border but at the same time emphasize the universal value of art that transcend borders, ethnicity and culture. The discussant, Prof. Cynthea Vogel (Kyushu University) touched upon the relationship between art and border when we look at art as consumed goods.

(Written by: Naomi Chi)




Latest Edition of Association of Borderlands Studies (ABS) Newsletter "La Frontera"

Latest Edition of Association of Borderlands Studies (ABS) Newsletter "La Frontera"

   The latest edition of the ABS Newsletter contains the official announcement of the trial of the Border Studies Japan Chapter by the current President, Prof. Akihiro Iwashita, the appointment of new officers and new board members, as well as the call for papers for the 2016 Annual Meeting of ABS in Reno, USA.

   The latest edition can be downloaded at the following website:



Call for Papers: Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS) Annual Conference in Reno, NV

Call for Papers: Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS) Annual Conference in Reno, NV

   Paper call (click the jpg below) for the Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS) 58th Annual Conference in Rinov, NV, is now open. The next President of ABS, Dr. Patricia Barraza, will chair and coordinate the conference under the title "Borders in the XXI century: Border institutions and governance." The deadline of the abstruct submission will be December 15, 2016.



Report on the IGU Regional Conference 2015, Moscow

Report on the IGU Regional Conference 2015, Moscow

    This year once again saw the IGU hold a regional conference, this time at Lomonosov Moscow State University from August 17-21. The choice of Moscow as a venue reflects the fact that the Presidency of the IGU is currently held by Vladimir Kolosov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Both Kolosov's own interest in the discipline and the exemplary recent work of Virginie Mamadouh and Takashi Yamazaki as co-chairs of the Commission for Political Geography, building upon the foundations ably laid by Elena dell'Agnese, ensured that political geography was well represented at what is always a mammoth event.

    The first panel sponsored by the CPG was organized by Iwashita Akihiro and Paul Richardson, sadly unable to be present in Moscow, and entitled 'Bordering Eurasia: Politics, Power and Political Geography', filling the three available sessions on the Monday afternoon. A combination of the heavy security in place due to the attendance of various grandees at the opening ceremony and the puzzling decision to hold the session in a room the size of a shoebox (despite the presence of the IGU's own president on the panel) entailed a slight delay, but a quick change of room saw proceedings underway. The first session was chaired by Akihiro Iwashita himself, and was kicked off by Deepika Saraswat, winner of the Commission's travel grant, discussing the convergence in Russian and Iranian geopolitical interests. She was followed by two papers that focused more upon the idea of Europe, with James Scott's examination of the EU's conception of 'neighborhood' and Jussi Laine's take on the multi-scaler nature of the Finnish-Russian border. Unfortunately, although he was present briefly and did say a few words, Vladimir Kolosov was absolutely rushed off his feet and unable to present his own paper. Despite the unconventional start, the session was a fascinating exploration of grander geopolitical narratives and their connections to often localized events.

    The second session reversed this perspective and focused at more small-scale examples of political processes while connecting them to their global context. Papers by Anna Casaglia and Frédéric Durand examined efforts at cross-boundary cooperation either induced from above or emerging from below, that of Fedor Popov sought to offer a sustained theoretical consideration of the space of secession, while Arnon Medzini examined the power of cartography. Finally, the third session provoked the liveliest debate, aided by the fact that just two of the speakers were present, opening up more time for discussion. Nurettin Özgen offered an impassioned argument for the dissolution of Sykes-Picot and establishment of a Kurdish state, while Edward Boyle sought to discuss the scaler issues involved in the consideration of borders through the lens provided by Japan's recent promotion of its territorial disputes as all involving her 'integral territory'.

    These excellent sessions segued nicely into many other issues touched on over the course of the conference. Takashi Yamazaki offered a powerful thematic lecture on the Tuesday that examined questions of sovereignty at the micro level, through an examination of the United States military's bases on Okinawa, which again connected seemingly local questions of borders and territory with much broader geopolitical concerns. There were a number of fine plenary speeches, including those by Georg Gartner on the importance of cartography, and particularly that by Alex Murphy on the relevance of geography and necessity of promoting its expertise in corridors of power. The security presence on the first day, and position of Sergei Shoygu, Russia's current Minister of Defense, as President of the Russian Geographical Society, attested to the fact that, in one country at least, the link between geography and power is in fine shape. The conference's venue served to remind all the participants of the importance of this, in three new buildings just opposite Stalin's magnificent, imposing university building, demonstrating that geography is still an intensely political endeavor.

(written by Edward Boyle, Kyushu University)



International Congress on Asian Studies 9 @Adelaide, Australia

International Congress on Asian Studies 9 @Adelaide, Australia "People's Movement, Identity and Contested Citizenship in the Age of Globalization: Comparative Studies from a Trans-disciplinary Approach"

  The UBRJ team consisting of Dr. Naomi Chi, Dr. Hisae Komatsu (Otemon Gakuin Univ.), Dr. Maya Suzuki (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) and Dr. Jieun Lee (Seoul National Univ.) presented at a panel organized by Dr. Chi titled, "People's Movement, Identity and Contested Citizenship in the Age of Globalization: Comparative Studies from a Trans-disciplinary Approach" at the International Congress on Asian Studies 9 at Adelaide, Australia.
  This panel consisting of scholars from a variety of disciplines (history, literature, sociology, and political science), will showcased four papers that discuss the significant subjects on global transformation both at empirical and theoretical levels. Apart from the mobility of labor forces, the global flow of people can result in bringing a set of their own historical roots including native language, life-style and worship to destination countries abroad. This flow inevitably impacts and shapes the history not only of their community but of the host society.
  To present insights into the broad discussion of people's movement and global transformation, this panel brought together four speakers who presented the following works:
(1) first paper probed the historical records about the collective experiences of the different ethnic groups during the Japanese occupation, which would provide important clues to analyze the die-hard ethnic tensions existing in contemporary Malaysian society;
(2) second paper examined the British Asian writers in the UK and the transformation of their identity;
(3) third paper examined the current socio-political dynamics of caste and development of anti-caste movements beyond India;
(4) and the last paper examined the issue of migration and contested citizenship in Japan and Korea.
  This panel sought to tackle such pertinent issues concerning the global economy and migration in the contemporary global context.

(written by Naomi CHI)



UBRJ Seminar "Southeast Asian Borders: Looking at Thailand's Northern Borderlands"

UBRJ Seminar "Southeast Asian Borders: Looking at Thailand's Northern Borderlands"

  UBRJ seminar titled, "Southeast Asian Borders: Looking at Thailand's Northern Borderlands" took place at the Slavic and Eurasian Research Center on July 13th. Three distinguished scholars from the Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Roi province, located in the northern Thailand, gave a talk on their respective research fields.

Prof. Siriporn Wajjwalku, the Dean of the School of Social Innovation at the Mae Fah Luang University kicked off the seminar with her opening remarks and introduced the ventures of the School of Social Innovation at Mae Fah Luang University. One of the main objectives of this school is to focus on the ASEAN community and regional integration of this vast borderland of northern Thailand, situated in a region that shares borders with Myanmar and Laos. When you look at Thailand in its entirety, it shares borders with Cambodia and Malaysia, thus, there is much potential for expanding border studies in the area.

  This was followed by a lecture on "An Efficiency of Local Administrative Organization in Chiang Rai Province Toward a Mitigation of Earthquake Disaster" by Dr. Wanwalee Inpin (Assistant Dean, School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University). She talked about the current relations between the Thai central and Chiang Rai local government and the potential for decentralization regarding the mitigation of earthquake disaster following a disastrous earthquake of 6.1 magnitude in the area last year. The four approaches that she has taken are decentralization, autonomy, top-down and bottom up approaches and while this is an ongoing research, she pointed out the potential of decentralization and promoting more efficiency in local government when faced with life threatening disaster.

  The last lecture titled, "Footloose Gem Traders and the Grey-shaded Border Space of Mae Sai Border Town" by Dr. Yuthpong Chantrawarin (Director of Research Center, School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University) who presented his work on gem trading in the Mae Sai border town. There are several ethnic migrants in the northern part of Thailand that are involved in gem training, and he focused on the Chanthaburi people who started trading gems since the 1990s. The gem trade itself brings 4 million US dollars of profit a day, and was one of the top export products. The relocation of Chanthaburi people, the ethnic armed conflict, as well as the ADB-GMS infrastructure contributed to the facilitation of gem trade boom, however, now with the Myanmar government's initiatives and Chinese capital, gem trading has died down in the area. He mentioned that the "footloose" Chanthaburi traders are now seeking new opportunities in Africa.

  This seminar was a kickoff seminar for the collaboration between UBRJ and border studies community in Southeast Asia, and we look forward to educational and research collaboration with Mae Fah Luang University in the near future.

(written by Naomi CHI)



Association of Asian Studies Conference in Taiwan (June 22-24, 2015)

Association of Asian Studies Conference in Taiwan (June 22-24, 2015)

  The UBRJ team consisting of Dr. Naomi Chi (Graduate School of Public Policy, Hokkaido Univ.), together with Dr. Hyein Han (Sunkyunkwan Univ.), Dr. Kyunghee Cho (Sungonghoe Univ.) and Dr. Bong Lee (Hokkaido Univ.) presented their work at work the 3rd AAS Conference in Asia held on June 22-24, 2015 at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan. Dr. Chi organized a panel titled, "For Whom the Bell Tolls?: Migration, Diaspora and Border Crossing Phenomena in East Asia" to explore the practices, discourses and experiences of migration and diasporas, or the border-crossing and mobility of people, which are an integral part of the history of modern East Asia.

  The panel dealt with various issues of migration and border crossing phenomena such as undocumented migration, stowaway and repatriation in East Asia from a trans-disciplinary perspective. The objectives of the panel were threefold: (1) to examine the various ways in which ethnic and national identities of migrants are defined, institutionalized, and reproduced, (2) to shed light on the "untold" tales of migration in East Asia and how that has affected the complex trans-bordered sphere of life of both Koreans and Japanese after 1945, and lastly (3) to explore ways to reconceptualise "migration" in East Asia through the various case studies. All the papers told the tale of people that have crossed and re-crossed the physical borders between Japan and Korea and demonstrated that migration or the movement of people between these borders is not a simple tale, but rather an intricate web of intersecting identities and borders.

(written by Naomi CHI

AAS Conference 150622-24 1.jpgAAS.jpg


"Border Tourism: Efforts in Kyushu-Okinawa and Hokkaido" Symposium held in Fukuoka May 30, 2015

"Border Tourism: Efforts in Kyushu-Okinawa and Hokkaido" Symposium held in Fukuoka May 30, 2015

  The first Border Studies-Kyushu University Center for Asia Pacific Studies (CAFS) symposium titled, "Border Tourism: Efforts in Kyushu-Okinawa and Hokkaido" at the IP City Hotel in Fukuoka on May 30th, 2015.

  Yasunori Hanamatsu from Kyushu University presented on the monitored tours from Tsushima to Busan and that he led in March of this year. One of the main highlights of the presentation was the analysis from the questionnaire he had asked the people on the tour to fill out after the trip which many stated that they were able to "experience the border" through the tour. He will be leading the next monitored tour in August targeting families with small children.

  Akihiro Iwashita from the Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University presented on the monitored tour from Wakkanai to Sakhalin that he will be leading in September. He presented about the possibilities of border tourism in Japan and how he expects that efforts to expand border tourism is on the horizon.

  One of the discussants, Ted Boyle from CAFS at Kyushu University posed a question on the possibility of connecting Japan's border tourism to theories of border studies while the second discussant, Ryu Shimada from Kyushu Economic Research Center presented on their new venture of border tourism from Okinawa to Taiwan.



Essey on ABS Annual Meeting by Paul Richardson

Essey on ABS Annual Meeting by Paul Richardson

   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.



Essey on Annual Conference of Association for Borderlands Studies by Alexander Bukh

Essey on Annual Meeting of Association for Borderlands Studies

   This year's Association of Border Studies (ABS) Annual Meeting coordinated by Professor IWASHITA Akihiro took place in Portland between the 8th and 11th of April. The meeting attracted participants from many regions including but not limited to Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania. Participants represented not only multiple countries and regions but also various disciplines ranging from geography and history to cultural studies and international relations. One thing that united them was the interest in borders-geographical borders, identity borders and other physical and mental constructs that create a certain boundary between human groups.

   My own academic interest is in territorial disputes in Northeast Asia but by attending various panels I learned a lot about territorial disputes and other border related issues in different regions. One of the things that I learned for example is that France (as a result of its possession of a territory in South America called French Guiana) actually has a border with Brazil! I have also learned about the various problems that local people living in this border area face and the attempted solutions to these issues on local and state levels.

   Overall, the conference was perfectly organized and a great learning experience. I would like to thank all of the organizers and especially Prof Iwashita for putting together such a great event. (written by Alexander Bukh, Victoria University of Wellington)

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