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 foci are:

  • Changing borderscapes in Southeast Asia (and between Southeast Asia and the wider world): air, land and sea.
  • Cross-border infrastructures and new scales and spaces of interaction.

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.”

 

Members

Dr Andrew Carruthers
Department of South East Asian Studies, NUS
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Profile: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/seaamc/

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

 

A/P Vatthana Pholsena
Department of South East Asian Studies, NUS
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Profile:  https://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/sea/about-us/people/faculty.html

 

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

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