The latest Newsletter from the International Institute for Asian Studies features a series of articles on “underworlds and borderlands”. I contributed one article based on research I conducted some years ago in the upper-Mekong borderlands. The brief article proposes moving beyond the common dichotomy between regulating states and resistant borderlanders:
Borderlands are often described as ‘frontier zones’ characterized by ‘rebelliousness, lawlessness and/or an absence of laws’. Anecdotes resonate with popular images of a remote underworld (or perhaps ‘outerworld’) where state authority is weak and lawlessness prevails. In the upper Mekong borderlands of Thailand, Laos and Burma, the imagery of borderland illegality persists both as spectre and lure, but the substance of what happens there reveals a state and society in league.