Max Weber Foundation Research Group on Borders, Mobility and New Infrastructures

Research foci

Supported by the Max Weber Foundation (http://www.maxweberstiftung.de/en/ueber-uns.html), the Research Group on Borders, Mobility and New Infrastructures was established in FASS in June 2017.

Our group includes members drawn from there Departments: GeographyJapanese and Southeast Asian Studies. Additionally, we work closely with the Asia Research Institute, especially the Inter-Asia Engagements Cluster.

Our foci are changing cross-border infrastructures, borderscapes, and new scales and spaces of interaction. We are particularly interested in Japan’s multi-faceted role in Southeast Asia.  

Our conception of the relation between “borders” and “mobility” is not restricted to movements across geopolitical borders, but more broadly refers to various arrays of socio-cultural, economic, and political spaces and the crossings that obtain between them. So too, our notion of “infrastructure” is not limited to those physical forms that ground the movement of people, goods, and values across space and time, but also extends to those non-physical networks (e.g. social, business and cultural) that enable everyday processes of commensuration and evaluation. Whilst the role, structure and experiences at state borders have recently become subjects of wide political debate in many regions, the study of borders has deep roots – reflecting nineteenth and twentieth century process of state formation, colonization, empire and conflict that generated a large body of scholarship. Since the 1980s however border studies have been rejuvenated through greater engagement with social and political theory that also responds to changing (bordering and other) process and practices, including (but not limited to) the rise of biometric borders (which shift the border from the state frontier per se, to a range of databases, sites and bodies), cross-border cooperation, European integration (and the evolution of other regional communities elsewhere, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations [ASEAN]), migration and refugee flows, conflict and fortification plus new visions of connectivity (and de/re-bordering?), such as China’s Belt and Road initiative. These contradictory moves belie claims that globalization would yield a ‘borderless world’. Instead the range and number of borderlands and borderscapes have multiplied, along with scholarship about them.

Just as the scope and scale of border studies has widened and deepened, movements of people, ideas and things, as well as the broader social implications of those movements have attracted more scholars under the umbrella of (new) mobility studies.  In particular, research under this ambit has embellished understandings of borders as necessary moments of stillness in the control and regulation of flows—both of people and objects, and, on occasions, information. This politics of bordering has crucially given rise to new regimes and methods of government, which have bearings on a wide array of contemporary issues, including labour, infrastructures, the global economy, regionalisation and state power. Further complicating the landscape is a multiplication of border rules (and thus conflicts) pertaining to air- and sea-spaces, ascribing unto national boundaries a three-dimensionality that stretches horizontally and vertically beyond terra firma. We are therefore particularly interested in maritime, terrestrial and aerial routes and the ways that they serve as, in the terms of a classic account of The Political Uses of Access in the Borderlands of Asia (M Z Ispahani, 1989) “both a geographical and political idea, both an end and a means.”

In January 2018, we organized - together with the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at NUS - a workshop on “Borders, Mobilities and New Infrastructures in an Age of Shifting Power Configurations”. Details are here.

From 29 Sep 2018 - 7 Oct 2018, the group hosted (again together with ARI) a Transregional Academy on the theme “Infrastructures, Regions and Urbanizations”. 

This event was sponsored by the Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien. Details are here.

Three of our postdoctoral fellows (Shaun Lin, Felix Mallin, and Simon Rowedder) took part in a network meeting, "The Pacific Space as a space of knowledge and interaction? Questions, concepts, and actors” at the German Historical Institute Moscow, 21-22 June 2019. This is part of a larger Max Weber Foundation research project on "Interactions and Flows of Knowledge: Entanglement and Disentanglement Processes in the Pacific Region".

 

Shaun Lin and James D Sidaway visited the German Historical Insititute (GHI) Washington when they attended the American Association of Geographers conference in April 2019. They were warmly received by Dr Sarah Beringer, Head of Strategy, who gave them a tour of the beautiful institute surrounded by embassies.

 

Three of our postdoctoral fellows (Shaun Lin, Felix Mallin, and Simon Rowedder) and Vatthana Pholsena of the Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CASE), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, took part in the 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS 11) in Leiden, the Netherlands, from 16-19 July 2019. 

 

Benjamin Beuerle, Research Fellow at German Historical Institute Moscow, Felix Mallin, Professor Dr. Hans van Ess, President of Trustees of the Max Weber Foundation and Simon Rowedder, at ICAS 11 in Leiden.

 

 From 15 September 2019 to 18 September 2019, James D Sidaway, along with the group's two postdoctoral fellows, Shaun Lin and Simon Rowedder, attended "The 1st FinGeo Global Conference 2019" in Beijing Normal University, China.

 
 


At the September 2019 FinGeo Confrence in Beijing, James D Sidaway spoke about "The Belt and Road Initiative's Logics: Finance, Frontiers, Security" in one of the plenary sessions titled "Global Financial Shift".



At the September 2019 FinGeo Confrence in Beijing, Shaun Lin chaired a panel session (co-organised with James, and Karen Lai of Durham University) on "Financing the Belt and Road Initiative", where Simon Rowedder presented on "Railroading Land-linked Laos: China’s Regional Profits, Laos’ Domestic Costs?".



Members

Dr Andrew Carruthers
University of Pennsylvania
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Profile: https://www.sas.upenn.edu/anthropology/people/andrew-carruthers

Dr Sonja Ganseforth
Deutsche Institut für Japanstudien (DIJ), Tokyo
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Profile: https://www.dijtokyo.org/people/sonja-ganseforth/
 

A/P Douglas Kammen
Department of South East Asian Studies, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/seadak/stf_seadak.htm

Dr Shaun Lin 
Max Weber-NUS Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Geography, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/geolzs/ 
 

Dr Weiqiang Lin
Department of Geography, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/geolinw/stf_geolinw.htm

 

Dr Felix Mallin
Max Weber-NUS Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Geography, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/geomfm/

 

A/P Hendrik Meyer-Ohle
Department of Japanese Studies, NUS
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Profile: https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/jpsmohc/

 

A/P Yoshinori Nishizaki
Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
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Profile: https://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/sea/about-us/people/faculty.html

 Dr Vatthana Pholsena
Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CASE)
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris
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Profile: http://case.ehess.fr/index.php?593

Dr Simon Rowedder
Max Weber-NUS Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of South East Asian Studies, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/seascr/

 

Professor James D Sidaway
Department of Geography, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/geojds/

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