Bordering the Unknown: Imagination and Liminal Space across Southeast Asian Frontiers
Part 1Session 8
Fri 09:00-10:30 Room 3.03
Part 2Session 9
Fri 11:00-12:30 Room 3.03
- Christian Oesterheld Mahidol University International College
- Emilie Testard Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales
- Michaela Haug Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology
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Negotiating Space at a Frontier of Violence: The Upper Mahakam Region, 1885-1910
Bernard Sellato Centre Asie du Sud-Est
Christian Oesterheld Mahidol University International College
The early decades of the 19th century saw the powerful development of the trade in forest products following the opening of the mainland China market. This trade first impacted coastal regions of the Southeast Asian archipelago, including the island of Borneo. By the mid-century, after the Brooke kingdom had established itself in Sarawak and the Dutch East Indies colonial state had started penetrating the West Borneo hinterland, trade networks from both sides, stimulated by high global demand, pushed increasingly farther inland numerous aggressive teams of local Dayak forest product collectors, who inevitably clashed in watershed regions between southern Sarawak rivers and upper Kapuas right tributaries.
Peripheral Voice: Frontier Making, Rupture Dynamics and Local Democracy in Eastern Indonesia
Mahesti Hasanah Universitas Gadjah Mada
Today Eastern Indonesia is progressively emerging as a resource frontier, that is, a provider of resources newly detached from its indigenous people’s ownership and made it integrated to global markets. This frontier-making not only leads to capital circulation, commodity production, ecological destruction, and social exclusion but also creates various critical responses from local agencies because it has transformed and redefined the environmental, economic and developmental interests in the region. This paper aims to explain the response of peripheral communities to frontier making initiated by global discourse on the use of renewable energy for climate justice. We depart from the argument that a energy could usher in not only significant changes in energy markets, investment flows, buildings, and power plants; it could also directly affect the vitality and vulnerability of particular communities and marginalised spaces (Sovacool, 2021). If some studies related to frontiers and democracy show that frontier making hijacks local democratic processes, we demonstrate how frontier expansion at the same time could raise critical awareness of marginalised people as citizens whose rights are being violated by political authorities in the name of climate justice. The continuous turmoil that befell local communities due to state territorialisation has provided space for local communities to get involved and find their sense of agency. Growing awareness of citizenship in marginal communities, which makes us aware that peripheral spaces were never passive zones, but rather dynamic zones where all kinds of interests are negotiated.
The Emergence of Fractal Resistance: Dispossessed Feeling and Bodies in Pile of Ruinous Frontier
Fathun Karib Satrio State University of New York at Binghamton
In May 2006, an underground eruption triggered by the natural gas drilling activity of the Lapindo Brantas Corporation produced mudflows in the Porong frontier, East Java, Indonesia. The earth generates mudflows, and geological scientists predict it will last for two decades (Davies et al. 2011, 523). The mudflows buried the villages into ruins submerged behind the mud embankment. While the earth continues to produce mud and methane, what happens to the villagers in the surrounding environment after experiencing socio-ecological changes in the ruined frontier due to the geological activity of gas extraction? This paper attempt to comprehend whether there is a space to understand misery in the inner experience of humans living in the ruins of Capitalocene? Are accumulation and its ruinous affect capable of transforming affected villagers to engage into resistance or miserable condition subjugating them into submission? I defined misery as a state or feeling of the great pain of mental (mind) and body (physical) related to specific human living conditions. Capitalism as a way of organizing human and extra-nature in the form of Cheap Nature depends on expanding and incorporating new areas for frontier making. From three ethnographic stories in this paper, I found out that the human body is a frontier zone. The processes of frontier-making are not limited to re-configuring nature like setting up natural gas infrastructure or developing disaster mega-projects to prevent further impacts to the gas industry but also transform the human body into a frontier. Frontier is not limited to physical, geographical, and material spaces external from the human body but also
The territorial contradictions of illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo: an ethnography of invisibility on an extractive frontier
Paul Thung Brunel University
In recent years, informal timber extraction has accelerated in Buluh Merindu, a village located within a large logging concession in West Kalimantan. Ethnographic observations of illegal logging lead to a reconsideration of our understanding of extractive frontiers. Frontiers are often conceptualised as processes of “erasure”, both imaginative and material (Tsing, 2003). The concept of erasure suggests a resolution of the contradictions inherent to frontier space through the dissolution of pre-existing social relations, and their replacement with extractive relations. Building on the insight that frontiers are “a matter of perspective” (Lounela and Tammisto, 2021, p. 10), this paper suggests that the concept of erasure may accurately describe outsider imaginations of the frontier, but that from within the frontier the more notable, lived experience is one of multiple, overlapping, conflicting realities. Directing attention to territorialities allows for better appreciation of the agency of local actors in negotiating the “ad-hoc arrangements” (Haug, 2014) that shape material outcomes on the frontier. Through a discussion of the spatialised practices of hiding and revealing illegal logging activity that villagers, company security personnel, and forest police engaged in, the paper argues that the co-production of invisibility is central to frontier-making. Territorial contradictions do not disappear, but are strategically hidden from view.
Death as the last frontier in the work of Hamzah Fansuri
Étienne Naveau Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales
Death marks the end of an individual existence. This personal confrontation with his own annihilation inscribes death at the end of a process of self-effacement (fan?), which is summed up in the Sufi adage « Die before dying», mentioned by the Malaysian mystic Hamzah Fansuri (16th century). This overcoming of the boundaries of the self identifies death with a passage to the other world, a passage which must however not be thought as an initiative of a human subject, but as the receptivity of a passion, a longing which the subject is not the master and which leads him to his own loss. Hamzah Fansuri illustrates this self-annihilation by the image of sinking into the seabed or by the image of the flame that consumes the one it attracts to itself. Death then symbolizes a kind of «reverse creation», the return of the individual to his origin, to the immemorial past which is the source of his being. This thought, summed up in the last chapter of The Beverage of Lovers, formally echoes our modernity. By rejecting the suicide of an individual interested in his survival by sacrificing his earthly life in order to gain eternal life, Hamzah Fansuri invites us to think death, in the manner of Emmanuel Levinas, as the Desire of the Infinite, that is a relation to the absolutely Other.
Drones that can’t fly: the making of liminoid frontier spaces between relation infrastructures
Jesper Doepping Mahidol University International College
Commercial drone entrepreneurs and companies have imagined that large cities by now, or at least in the very near future, would have created a world of frictionless mobility, the appropriation of not used spaces in cities tormented by traffic jams, with almost instant delivery of everything from pizza to the delivery of books. Inspired by the US Federal Aviation Authorities (FAA) launch of the “Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) concept of operations” 2017 and full implementation in 2018 drone companies in South East Asia boomed. Yet, while drones in limited numbers fly in US. The drones in Thailand has challenged existing concepts of space, time, sovereignty, and privacy. The response has been a limited legislation that in practice relegate drones to large warehouses and outside of the recognized spaces of the city. Just as drone movement Have been restricted to vertical movements.
Vietnam’s urban frontier: Porosity and urban citizenship in the peri-urban city
Mirjam Le University of Passau
This paper looks at secondary cities in Vietnam as urban frontier, simultaneously urban and rural, local and global, integrated into the national framework and often forgotten in the national aspiration for modernization. This unique location allows space to open for residents and state authorities to negotiate needs, interests, and aspirations beyond the national vision for modernity and civilization.
Water as threshold in Siamese classical poetry: A dive in-between symbolic states
Emilie Testard Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales
Amongst the many symbols conveyed through water as evoqued in thai classic literature, one seems to travel as a red line in the variety of submurged images. After having immersed ourselves in nature contemplation stanzas in various literary genre, Gaston Bachelard’s reflexions on the poetic of elements led us to first dive into water and classify relevant verses from classical poems where water, in its various forms and manifestations is described and is a crucial element in the intrigues unfolding. It appeared that not only water is omnipresent but foremost that the various associations made to it by poets led us today to the hypothesis that this element is the most adaptable to the concept of transition and thus constitutes an interface between « states ». A transitory element that embodies impermanence Anitya : the great ontological metamorphosis of all things.
This panel aims to connect with recent developments in the study of frontiers, initiating debates on the ambiguous relationship between frontiers, territoriality and space. Whereas some conceptualizations of the frontier have largely focused on aspects of territoriality, we wish to engage with the more transient aspects of spatiality. Frontiers are often regarded as the edges of territorial control: of people, land and resources. Such an approach frequently associates with the position of encroaching states, entrepreneurs or settlers, in which “frontiers [literally] take place” (Rasmussen and Lund 2018: 388). It has been noted, however, that the agency of local communities at the frontier is often neglected in this perspective.
In this panel, we wish to engage with emic points of view in regard to frontiers and frontier space: Are there local notions of the dichotomy between the ‘centre’ and “out-of the-way places” (Tsing 1993)? How do people at the ‘periphery’ negotiate ‘remoteness’? How are ‘marginal’ realms composed of their own inner and outer edges? And how is frontier space “anchored in the imaginative” (Cons and Eilenberg 2019: 12), generating notions of distalgia and experiences of liminality?
Based on Victor Turner’s rendering of liminality, we regard frontier space as “in-and-out” of linear territory. Space at frontiers constitutes realms of the “in-between” filled by visionary ideas of (local or international) development, notions of alternative realities or a utopian longing. This might include the spatial imageries of local cosmologies as much as the mental ‘mapping’ of novel realms such as airspace, waterways and ‘nature’ more generally.
We invite papers that engage with frontier spatiality across all parts of Southeast Asia. The panel welcomes contributions from different disciplines, encouraging both ethnographic case studies and conceptual interpretations of the frontier as a symbolic sphere.