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Introduction The Global Transformation of Borders and Mobility

Borders and Mobility
in South Asia and Beyond
Edited by Reece Jones and Md. Azmeary Ferdoush
Jones & Ferdoush (eds) Borders and Mobility in South Asia and Beyond
Borders and Mobility in South Asia and Beyond
Asian Borderlands
Asian Borderlands presents the latest research on borderlands in Asia as well as
on the borderlands of Asia – the regions linking Asia with Africa, Europe and
Oceania. Its approach is broad: it covers the entire range of the social sciences
and humanities. The series explores the social, cultural, geographic, economic
and historical dimensions of border-making by states, local communities and
ows of goods, people and ideas. It considers territorial borderlands at various
scales (national as well as supra- and sub-national) and in various forms (land
borders, maritime borders), but also presents research on social borderlands
resulting from border-making that may not be territorially  xed, for example
linguistic or diasporic communities.
Series Editors
Tina Harris, University of Amsterdam
Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam
Editorial Board Members
Franck Billé, University of California, Berkeley
Duncan McDuie-Ra, University of New South Wales
Eric Tagliacozzo, Cornell University
Yuk Wah Chan, City University Hong Kong
Borders and Mobility in South Asia
and Beyond
Edited by
Reece Jones and Md. Azmeary Ferdoush
Amsterdam University Press
Cover illustration: Asad Zaman
Cover desig n: Coördesign, Leiden
Lay-out: Crius Group, Hulshout
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 10.5117/9789462984547
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Table of Contents
Introduction 
The Global Transformation of Borders and Mobility
Reece Jones and Md. Azmeary Ferdoush
Section I Experiencing Borders in South Asia
1 Spaces of Refusal 
Rethinking Sovereign Power and Resistance at the Border
Reece Jones
2 Border Layers 
Formal and Informal Markets Along the India-Bangladesh Border
Edward Boyle and Mirza Zulqur Rahman
3 Experiencing the Border 
The Lushai People and Transnational Space
Azizul Rasel
Section II Mobility in and Beyond South Asia
4 Of Insiders, Outsiders, and In ltrators 
The Politics of Citizenship and Inclusion in Contemporary South Asia
Kavitha Rajagopalan
5 Renegotiating Boundaries 
Exploring the Lives of Undocumented Bangladeshi Women Workers
in India
Ananya Chakraborty
6 ‘The Immoral Trac in Women’ 
Regulating Indian Emigration to the Persian Gulf
Andrea Wright
7 The Journey to Europe 
A Young Afghan’s Experience on the Migrant Route
James Weir and Rohullah Amin
8 Hardening Regional Borders 
Changes in Mobility from South Asia to the European Union
Marta Zorko
Section III Representations of Borders and Mobility
9 The Borders of Integration 
Paperwork between Bangladesh and Belgium
Malini Sur and Masja van Meeteren
10 Disordering History and Collective Memory in Gunvantrai
Acharya’s Dariyalal 
Riddhi Shah
11 Fragmented Lives 
Locating ‘Home’ in the Poems of Sudesh Mishra
Tan a Triv edi
Conclusion 
Md. Azmeary Ferdoush and Reece Jones
Index 
List of Figures
Figure2.1 Land Customs Stations in Northeast India 
Figure2.2 Locations of Border Haats along the India-Bangladesh
Border 
Figure3.1 The Chittagong Hill Tracts 
Figure3.2 The Sajek Valley 
Figure7.1 Typical Afghan Transportation 
Figure7.2 Akbar’s Route to Europe 
Figure10.1 Ramjibha’s Identity Tangent 
Putting together a book involves the work of many people at multiple
stages of the process. We want to thank Saskia Gieling and the editors at
Amsterdam University Press for supporting the book and shepherding it to
publication. Thanks also to the Asian Borderlands Series editors, Willem
van Schendel and Tina Harris, for their support of the project. Asad Zaman
designed and drew the book cover image. Thanks to Julius Paulo for making
the maps for Figures 3.1 and 7.2. The original idea for this book was hatched
at the University of Hawai‘i Centre for South Asian Studies Symposium in
Honolulu, which was funded by the Centre for South Asian Studies and the
GJ & Ellen Watumull Foundation. Thanks particularly to Akta Kaushal and
Monica Ghosh for their organizational eforts and support.
Reece Jones thanks Sivylay, Kiran, and Rasmey for allowing the time
for the research and writing that went into this project. Thanks also to my
parents, Wally and Celia, for their continuing support. Chapter1, ‘Spaces of
Refusal: Rethinking Sovereign Power and Resistance at the Border’, originally
appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers in 2012,
volume102(3), pp.685-699. It is reprinted with permission. Thanks to Thomas
Beleld, Adam Moore, and Lisa Romano for reading and commenting on
earlier versions of this chapter. The  ndings of the chapter are based in part
on work supported by the US National Science Foundation under Grant
No.0602206, the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, and the Political
Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers.
Md. Azmeary Ferdoush thanks his parents for their life-long support
and help and acknowledges his wife Morsaline for being a source of im-
mense inspiration all the way through. Azmeary is grateful to the Centre for
South Asian Studies at UH Manoa, the East-West Centre, the Department
of Geography and Environment at UH Manoa, and the Graduate Student’s
Organization at UH Manoa for partially supporting his work. Last but not
the least, he thanks his adviser, who has not only been a great mentor but
also a great person to collaborate with.
Edward Boyle wishes to acknowledge the nancial support of Kyushu
University’s Short-term International Research Exchange Program, which
enabled the  eld trip to Northeast India that made this collaborative venture
possible. Mirza Zulqur Rahman also wishes to acknowledge his gratitude
for the opportunity to visit the eld aforded by this program. Material in
this chapter was initially presented by Edward Boyle as part of the Borders
and Sovereignty panel at the American Association of Geographers Annual
Meeting in San Francisco, 29March-02April, 2016. Attendance was made
possible by a Kyushu University Interdisciplinary Programs in Education
and Projects in Research Development (P&P) grant, Project No.27503.
Azizul Rasel is indebted to the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh,
and particularly Vice Chancellor H.M. Jahirul Haque, for the partial grant
in support of this research. He is grateful to his colleagues Salimullah Khan,
Syeda Nishita Aurnab, and Rigan Chakma for their useful comments and
Rumana Sharmin, Aminul Sazal, and Sharmina Nasrin for their constant
support and encouragement. He is thankful to Razin Khan for sending
him valuable books from London. His debt to his friend David Lushai is
boundless, as he helped to organize interviews in the Sajek Valley.
Kavitha Rajagopalan acknowledges that many of the ideas in this chapter
emerged in conversation and collaboration with many thoughtful scholars.
In particular, she would like to acknowledge her colleagues Greg Lindsay
and Kate Malof at the World Policy Institute for their collaboration on the
Emergent Cities Initiative, and Dr. Michael Ignatief and Devin Stewart at
the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International A fairs for their leadership
in a multi-year inquiry into the global ethics surrounding migration and
citizenship. Special thanks are owed for the insights and introductions of
Kathr yn Stam and Chris Sunderlin in Utica, and for the generosity of Shyam
Rai and his family. She is grateful for the guidance and mentorship of Dr.
Edmund W. Gordon, and for the love and support of her husband, Matthew
Young, and her two children, Leela and Krishna.
Ananya Chakraborty is grateful to Dr. Sandhya Iyer and the Late Prof.
Sharit Bhowmik for their valuable suggestions in conceptualizing this paper.
She is also thankful for the valuable suggestions of two anonymous referees.
Finally, she would like to thank the editors of this book for their patience
and constant guidance. The usual disclaimers apply.
Andrea Wright acknowledges that this project was funded by a Fulbright-
Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship. She thanks the sta f
at the National Archives of India, Aligarh Muslim University, and the Dubai
School of Government for their support of the research for this chapter. At
the University of Michigan, she thanks Rackham Graduate School, the Ross
School of Business’s Centre for International Business Education, the Trehan
India Initiative, and the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and
History for their generous support. Versions of this article were presented at
the Association for Asian Studies Conference (Philadelphia) and the South
Asia by the Bay Conference (Palo Alto), and she is grateful to the audiences
and organizers for their feedback. She is indebted to Alexandre Beliaev,
William Benton, David William Cohen, Juan Cole, Matthew Hull, Elizabeth
Kelly, Purvi Mehta, and Farina Mir for their comments and suggestions on
earlier versions of this chapter.
Marta Zorko would like to thank every interviewed person who shared
their story to make this chapter insightful. She would especially like to thank
those who withdrew their statements afterwards because of fear for their
legal status, work, or even life. This made her realize the real importance
of the topic. She would also like to thank her travel companion for overall
support during the research and for being brave enough to ask the questions
that she sometimes did not have the courage to ask. Finally, many thanks
to the editors for the patience and efort toward realizing this book.
Malini Sur and Masja van Meeteren thank Hans Sonneveld and Willem
van Schendel for encouraging collaborative research and the anonymous
reviewers for their valuable suggestions.
Tana Trivedi would like to thank Ahmedabad University for giving her the
academic space to pursue her research, and her family for their unstinting
support and love.
The Global Transformation of Borders and Mobility
Reece Jones and Md. Azmeary Ferdoush
Jones, Reece and Ferdoush, Md. Azmeary (eds), Borders and Mobility in
South Asia and Beyond. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018
: 10.5117/9789462984547/
The migration ‘crisis’ of the mid-2010s featured many familiar stories: Syrians
eeing the war that destroyed their homes; Central Americans escaping gang
violence to nd safety in the north; Eritreans eeing a totalitarian regime
that prohibits emigration; hundreds of thousands of Rohingya crossing
into Bangladesh from Myanmar; and migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa
leaving the lingering poverty of colonial exploitation to search for better
opportunities elsewhere. This book seeks to broaden and deepen the story
of migration in the twenty- rst century by focusing on the experiences of
the people from South Asia who have played a signicant role in global
migrations, but received less attention in academic and media accounts.
Despite the international media’s focus on people from Syria, people from
Afghanistan make up the largest group stranded along the route through
the Balkans after the closure of borders and construction of walls in 2015.
In 2016, Pakistanis were the second largest group of refugees in Serbia
(United Nations, High Commissioner for Refugees 2016). In the Middle East,
people from South Asia make up the vast majority of the workers building
skyscrapers, articial islands, and stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In the  rst half of 2017, the largest single group crossing the Mediterranean
from Libya to Italy were not from the Middle East or Africa, but Bangladesh
(Dearden 2017).
Indeed, if you look for it, the Bangladeshi population is visible in all of
the major cities of Italy.
In Rome, Bangladeshi men dominate the area
around the Colosseum, selling sele sticks, bottled water, and souvenirs
to tourists. In Florence, many of the small convenience stores are run by
Bangladeshis, as are the majority of the stalls selling leather goods and
1 Reece Jones conducted research in Italy in summer 2017, including interviews with
12 Reece Jo nes and Md. a zMeaRy FeR doush
football jerseys at the Mercato San Lorenzo. In Milan, an Italian colleague
noted that she had assumed that there were many Indian migrants, but
many had turned out to be from Bangladesh. Even before the current
wave of migration, Bangladeshis already made up the second largest non-
European population in Italy (after Nigerians), with over 142,000 people
living there with status. This population has tripled in just the past seven
years and is projected to increase to 232,000 by 2030. It is also estimated
that, as of 2009, at least 11,000 additional Bangladeshis were living in Italy
without any legal status (Blangiardo 2009). The Bangladeshi migrants in
Italy are overwhelmingly male (72 per cent) and, with an average age of 28
years, are mostly young adults looking for better chances in life (Rahman
& Kabir 2012). In addition to those arriving on boats from Libya – where
many originally went to work in the oil industry, not to come to Europe–,
others rst went to the United Kingdom as students, or to Germany to
apply for asylum. After their attempts to settle elsewhere ended or were
denied, they came to Italy following their connections with the already-
established population.
Once they arrive in Italy, Bangladeshis without a legal status face a
daunting life of scraping by on the edges of society, relying on the exist-
ing community for shelter and work opportunities. In addition to selling
goods on the streets to tourists, many Bangladeshis work as cooks in the
kitchens of tourist-oriented Italian restaurants. Those with status have
access to more jobs, but still struggle to adapt to a new way of life with
diferent expectations for behaviour and social interactions. As their new
home changes them, they also maintain connections to their relatives in
Bangladesh, sending home remittances and keeping abreast of political
and cultural events. Their new life can be simultaneously invigorating and
exasperating, as opportunities and wealth compete with lower status, racial
biases, and a longing for home. As a 24-year-old who had been in Europe
for two years without status explained, ‘The pay is good, but I miss all of
my family at home.’
The story of these Bangladeshis – who undertake a dangerous journey,
apply for asylum but are rejected, and then live without documents in Rome
or Florence – is representative of the larger questions the contributors grapple
with in this book. Globally, the world is experiencing one of the largest
movements of people in history and a large proportion of those migrants
are from South Asia. The factors that drive people to move include: wars
over resources; global income divergence, as the gap between the wealthiest
and the poorest continues to grow; population growth, which pushes more
people out of rural areas into crowded cities in search of jobs; con ict over
IntRoductIon 13
articial borders that are the remnants of colonialism; and the spectre
of climate change-induced migration, which could potentially displace
hundreds of millions of people. In this context, the overall contribution of
this volume is to answer the question: In an age of global migration, economic
lows, and information exchange, how do borders and rest rictions on mobility
afect the lives of people from South Asia and beyond?
The chapters collected here answer this question by looking at migrants’
current situation at a range of scales and from distinct vantage points. The
rst section of the book considers the lingering impact of Partition on
borders in South Asia, seventy years after that tumultuous event. How do
people move through these South Asian border spaces? How do the lines
on the map, and the increasingly militarized borders on the ground, afect
people’s lives? How do borderland people and sovereign states cope with the
reality that people and goods continue to move across these borders? The
second section of the book turns to longer-distance migrations, describing
the contemporary experiences of people from South Asia as they take part
in the global movement of people. Why have so many people decided to
move? How have the hardened borders of walls, guards, and surveillance
technologies impacted their journeys? How do factors of ethnicity, gender,
and religion shape their experiences once they arrive in their destinations?
Finally, the third section of the book goes deeper into the experiences of
diaspora communities who have resided for long periods in new homes.
How do people in the South Asian diaspora represent their current and
past homes? How are connections to the past maintained, and how do these
connections constrict and enable their lives today? Throughout the book
we draw on the stories and experiences of people on the move to illustrate
how new borders, migration, and citizenship policies afect the lives of
individuals around the world.
Theorizing Borders, Mobility, and Place in South Asia and Beyond
To answer these questions, this introduction situates the chapters within
three distinct but closely related bodies of literature. First, by focusing
on the experiences of borderlanders and migrants, this book provides a
snapshot of the precarious lives of people who move, both within South
Asia and globally from South Asia to Europe and North America. Drawing
on recent trends in critical border studies, we argue that the hardening
of borders does not stop the movement of people; instead, it only makes
movement more risky and dangerous as people nd new ways through and
14 Reece Jones a nd Md. azMe aRy FeRdoush
around border restrictions. Second, the book engages with the literature
on borders and mobility to demonstrate that migration from South Asia
is a gendered experience, in terms of both who is able to move and their
experiences at t heir destinations. Experiences of the journey – both en route
and at the destination – also vary widely, depending on factors such as age,
national origin, religious identity, and whether one has valid documents.
Finally, it engages with the literature on place-making to argue that South
Asian diaspora populations are in a constant process of making both where
they currently live and, through representations, their distant, and often
unknown, ancestral homes.
Migration in the Age of Security and Walls
The global movement of people and the violent and exclusionary responses
of states have attracted substantial scholarly attention to the expansion of
security practices and their impact on people on the move. In 2016, over
7900 people died while attempting to cross a border, the largest number
ever recorded. In 2017, there were 5400 deaths at borders around the world.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that there
were over 65.6million people displaced globally in 2016, also a record
(United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2016). In response to
these movements, border security has emerged as a key political issue in
countries around the world. Donald Trump rode his campaign promise to
build a wall on the Mexico border to the presidency of the United States.
In the United Kingdom, voters opted to leave the European Union over
fears of migration and open borders. Across Europe, countries have built
walls, instituted new security procedures, and even closed internal border
crossings that had been open since the late 1990s. In 2012, there were about
35 border walls globally; in 2017, there are almost 70 (Jones 2016; Jones &
Johnson 2016; Vallet 2014). The idea that globalization would produce a
world of free movement of goods and people was in retreat as anti-migrant
nationalism and anti-trade protectionism emerged as key political positions
in many countries.
Recent interventions into the political geography of border spaces have
suggested that these changes to the politics and practices of borders have
transformed contemporary migration experiences (Johnson et al.2011;
2 M issing Mig rants Proje ct, Intern ational Orga nization for Mi gration. htt ps://missi ngmigra nts. . This database is drawn from media reports on deaths and is therefore critiqued for
being incomplete and dependent on the ebb and  ow of coverage.
IntRoductIon 15
Parker & Williams 2009). Mobility is now characterized by new corridors,
camps, and spaces of connement that funnel migrants toward speci c
locations and violently restrict the easiest routes to their destinations (Jones
et al.2017). These new geographies shift the movement of migrants to new
landscapes and waterscapes that alter the experience for both people en
route and the people they encounter along the way. At the same time, people
on the move create their own corridors as new technologies enable the
rapid dissemination of local knowledge of the conditions along the route
through mobile phones, GPS, and social media. As Gabriel Popescu suggests,
‘Digital technologies bring together issues of politics and space in ways that
change how power is organized and distributed geographically’ (Popescu
in Jones et al.2017: 4).
In addition to the expansion of security practices at borders, many
states are externalizing border enforcement through agreements with
neighbouring countries. Border externalization means that much of the
work of enforcing the border is done by transit states that are not the nal
destination of people on the move (Casas-Cortes, Cobarrubias, & Pickles
2013, 2015; Collyer 2007, 2012; Collyer & King 2015). The United States has
deals with Canada and Mexico that push its borders outside of the actual
borderline; the European Union has signed deals with Turkey, Morocco, and
Afghanistan that enlist these countries to patrol for potential migrants and
prevent them from reaching the edges of the EU. The border is no longer
located only at the edge of a state; it has become a mobile phenomenon
(Jones & Johnson 2014; Amilhat Szary & Giraut 2015). The EU’s deal with
Afghanistan allows it to deport an unlimited number of Afghan asylum
seekers – who in 2015 constituted the second largest group in Europe, with
196,170 applications – in exchange for providing aid money to Afghanistan
(Rasmussen 2016). According to the UN, among the top seven countries with
the largest diasporas, three are from South Asia – namely, India, Bangladesh,
and Pakistan with sixteen, seven, and six million people, respectively (United
Nations 2015).
Borders in South Asia
In South Asia, the past decade has been characterized by similarly dramatic
changes at borders. India has expanded and reinforced the fences on its
borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, and currently has more
kilometres of border fence than any other country in the world. It also
has the largest border security force, with over 200,000members (Gohain
2015; Horstman & Cole 2015; McDuie-Ra 2014; Sur 2015b). In 2015, India and
16 Reece Jones an d Md. azMea Ry FeRdoush
Bangladesh rati ed the long-stalled Land Boundary Agreement that settled
border disputes between the two countries and exchanged their border
enclaves. Despite the accord, however, India continues to expand its fences
on the Bangladesh border and the killing of more than 1000 Bangladeshi
civilians by the Indian Border Security Force over the past decade mars
the political relationship between the two countries (Human Rights Watch
2010). At the same time, India and Pakistan’s standof over Kashmir remains
stalled without an end in sight. Seventy years after the Partition of British
India, the borders that were left behind continue to divide people and
perpetuate conict in South Asia.
The borders in South Asia have received increased attention in the past
ten years as scholars have moved beyond methodological nationalism to
think about cross-border historical and contemporary realities. Rather
than treating Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan as  nalized and separate
containers of each population’s social, economic, and political life, scholars
such as Willem van Schendel and Ranabir Samaddar have shifted the focus
of study to look at cross-border connections (Baud & van Schendel 1997;
Van Schendel 2001, 2002, 2005, 2013, 2015; Samaddar 1999). Following their
lead, there has been a series of signi cant cross-border articles and books
focusing on the border enclaves along the India-Bangladesh border, border
fencing and security, and migration and refugees (Cons 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016;
Gellner 2013; Jones 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, 2012; McDuie-Ra 2012, 2016; Shewly
2013, 2015, 2016; Sanyal 2009; Sur 2013, 2015a; Ferdoush 2014, 2018; Ferdoush
& Jones 2018). These new studies consider the continued impact of partition
on South Asian communities and the current lived experiences of border
spaces. The new trends are summarized and expanded in a recent special
issue of Political Geography, which argues that the legacies of colonialism,
partition, violence, and cross-border movement and connections make
South Asia a ‘particularly productive place to engage questions of borders
and margins’ (Cons & Sanyal 2013: 6).
Scholars such as Joya Chatterji, Lucy Chester, Vazira Zamindar, Willem
van Schendel, and Jason Cons have each made signi cant contributions to
the research on the aftermath of Partition’s borders in South Asia (Chatterji
1994, 2007; Chester 2008, 2013; Zamindar 2007). Collectively, their work
considers the arbitrary nature of the borders that have divided South Asia
for seventy years and investigates the role these lines continue to play in
the politics, economics, and cultural production of South Asia.
At the western India-Pakistan border, there was a rapid movement of
people across the new lines just after Partition, but the eastern border
saw slower migration as people assessed their situation and, over decades,
IntRoductIon 17
decided to move. Chatterji looks at ‘the impact of partition upon the social
and political fabric of Bengal and of India’ during the twenty years after
the event (Chatterji 2007: 4), emphasizing the diferences between the
post-Partition period in the east and the west of South Asia. On the eastern
border, West Bengal’s leadership sought to disperse the migrants and prevent
them from becoming a strong group. Huge migrant populations during
the Bangladesh War of Independence accounted for 15 per cent of the total
population and 25 per cent of the population in urban areas in West Bengal
in 1973 (Chatterji 2007: 150). Chatterji also considers the post-Partition
experience of the Muslims who chose to stay in West Bengal. She suggests
that there was some forced assimilation, at least in public posture, and that
they began to cluster in particular places – particularly when Muslims left
the cities for rural areas near the border with East Pakistan.
Other scholars have considered the boundary commissions’ decision-
making process and the impact of the lines they drew. Chester’s work
analyses the role of the boundary commissions in the Partition decision
and the consequences for the India-Pakistan border (Chester 2008, 2013).
Chester argues that the Partition boundaries demonstrate the efort of
British colonial leaders to maintain some semblance of control over South
Asia even after decolonization. The devastation after the event, according
to Chester, was less about the precise location of the line on the map and
more about the failure to recognize the large social disruption that the
creation of new ideas of homeland and belonging would have.
As the reality of the situation took hold, people across South Asia were
faced with the process of imagining a new mental map of their place in the
world. Zamindar focuses on the impact that these new ideas of a ‘homeland’
dened by arbitrary borders had over the ensuing decades (Zamindar
2007). She uses oral histories and rst-hand accounts of the impact that
the emergence of these new territories had on the lives of people at a local
scale to demonstrate that people who were compelled to move across the
border, leaving their homes, relatives, and jobs behind, still feel a sense of
loss and are in limbo. Many of them would still like to think of the regions
divided by the new borders as really part of the same country. Frank Billé
considers this feeling of limbo to be ‘territorial phantom pains’ (2014). By
this, Billé means people’s perception that a geographic area is (or should
be) part of their nation still, even though it no longer is.
The efort to x the line and then secure it is carried out through the
imposition of bureaucratic control, the deployment of paramilitary forces,
the homogenization of the borderland population, and the creation of
techniques to resolve inter-state con ict (van Schendel 2005: 97). Each of
18 Reece Jones and Md. azMeaRy FeRdoush
these processes has an impact on both the local borderlands and the political
centres. Van Schendel equates the making of a border to an earthquake
that disrupts the land, and emphasizes that borderlands are a space that
calls many assumptions about states, and the entire world political system,
into question: ‘Global reterritorialization is best approached by looking
simultaneously at states, transborder arrangements, and transnational ows
because these are complementary arenas of power, prot and imagination’
(van Schendel 2005: 385). He notes that at the India-East Pakistan/Bangladesh
border there was always substantial violence directed towards borderland
people, even during periods of peaceful relations between the states. Further,
he argues that the tendency to only see borderlands through the lens of
the state dehumanizes the space and erases the local scale of the sufering
produced by the line.
Cons extends this point through a case study of the Dahagram-Angorpota
enclave on the India-Bangladesh border that contextualizes these sensitive
spaces within the broader literature of post-colonial state formation, national
imagination, human territoriality and sovereignty (Cons 2016; Sack 1986). In
doing so, he argues that sensitive spaces trouble the postcolonial imagina-
tion of continuous territory, a clearly demarcated border, and identity and
belonging. Elizabeth Dunn and Cons argue that multiple forms of power
operate at the same time in these spaces: both the ruled and the rulers work
out their own ways to set up the rules of being governed and to govern in
their everyday lives (Dunn & Cons 2014). Consequently, these spaces remain
constant sources of anxiety and ambiguity for both those who are governed
and those who seek to govern. They unsettle the notion of postcolonial
South Asia, which is based on the idea ‘that nationality and territory must
align’ (Cons 2016: 7). In the end, Cons suggests that there is an ambivalence
around borders, especially the former border enclaves: ‘they are spaces that,
to paraphrase Carl Schmitt, the center thinks with intense passion, though
not necessarily with great care’ (Cons 2016: 21).
This book contributes to this growing literature on borders in South
Asia by paying particular attention to how these changes at the border
afect people who live in the borderlands. At rst, the imposition of the
Partition borders was a shock to people who had previously lived in the
heartlands of British India. Even for many years after the line was drawn
on a map, people on the ground were unaware of exactly where it was – or
simply ignored it. However, by the late 1990s, the states increasingly tried
to normalize movement through crossing points and prevent unauthorized
movements through violence. While most of the borders in South Asia are
now clearly demarcated and heavily militarized, this has not been successful
IntRoductIon 19
in stopping the movement of people and goods across them. Drawing on both
the formal and informal phenomenon of cross-border mobilities in South
Asia, the rst section of this volume suggests that no matter how clearly a
border is demarcated or how heavily it is militarized, people will continue
defying the border as long as it remains a question of kinship, livelihood,
structural needs, and, above all, survival.
Mobility, Place, and Belonging in Diaspora
Beyond South Asia, borders and mobility have received substantial attention
from scholars interested in the relationships between people, place, and
movement. Tim Cresswell argues that mobility ‘is a fundamental geo-
graphical facet of existence and, as such, provides a rich terrain from which
narratives – and, indeed, ideologies – can be, and have been, constructed’
(Cresswell 2006: 1). Cresswell sees a diference between movement (simply
going from here to there) and mobility (which has meaning attached to it)
(Cresswell 2006: 25). There is a paradox in the contemporary world, where
people are dened by their place of birth, citizenship, and identity, but,
at the same time, people and goods are constantly in motion – moving
around cities, regions, and the world. The contributions to this volume
dwell on this conicted sense of the identity of people on the move, who
are simultaneously de ned by their movement as ‘migrants’ but also forever
marked by their place of birth.
Following Yi-Fu Tuan, Cresswell denes a ‘place’ as a space that has
meaning attached to it by humans through naming it and interacting with
it in some way (Cresswell 2004: 10; Tuan 1977). Doreen Massey expands
this de nition by identifying four diferent aspects of ‘place’: place as a
process, place from outside, place as the centre of multiple identities and
histories, and place as an outcome of unique interactions (Massey 1997).
First, a place is a process because it is always becoming, always in the
process of making and remaking. A place is where lives take diferent
shapes, forms, importance, and meaning every day. For a person who
is settling into a new place, place-making becomes a process. Second,
a place is not only created by the people living there, but also through
how the place is identi ed and imagined by people living outside of that
place. These ‘others’ have a perception of the place that also plays a role in
making the place what it is. For example, for a migrant from South Asia who
has never been to the Middle East or Europe, these still remain idealized
places. An idea of them has been created by the media, by literature, and
by word of mouth that plays a signi cant role in dening what the Middle
20 Reece Jo nes and Md. a zMeaRy FeR doush
East or Europe is. The third aspect for Massey is the role a place plays as a
centre of multiple identities and histories. A place has its own history and
diferent people connect to each history in diferent ways, which makes
it distinct from other places. People who live in a place identify with that
place, but this identication is not universal; people from the same place
might identify with that place from a very diferent perspective. Finally,
place is an outcome of unique interactions: a place is created and made
unique as a result of the interactions that take place among people, both
those living there and those outside. These particular ways of doing things
create the sense of place that signies the diference between an insider
who is from there and someone else: an outsider who has not yet achieved
local status.
For diasporic populations, the idea of a homeland creates a very particular
version of place that is rooted in memory and nostalgia. However, the
meaning of the home is also contested, as people possess multiple con-
nections to diferent places that do not t neatly into a simple categorical
box. According to Robert Kaiser, ‘homeland’ is a term ‘used to symbolize
the deep emotional connectedness that people are said to feel towards
their place of origin, as well as toward more geographically expansive and
socially constructed birth spaces such as national homelands’ (Kaiser 2009:
4). Rather than treating these categories as existing realities, the focus for
many scholars is on understanding the narratives and practices that produce
an idea of home and create and reiterate those feelings of connection to
place within a population and for individuals (Mack 1993). There is not a
single version of a homeland that ties a particular group to the place, but
rather evocations and enactments that produce an idea of home that may
provide comfort – or a sense of persistent loss and longing – for a person
on the move.
There is a growing literature that delves into the experiences of people
from South Asia as they make new lives around the world. Mizanur
Rahman and Tan Tai Yong focus on the impact of remittances as wealth
flows back to the relatives who remained at home (2015). Nazli Kibria
has traced the experiences of Bangladeshi migrants in Britain, the
United States, the Middle East, and Malaysia (Kibria 2011). Her work
emphasizes the significance of religion for many migrants, who also work
to integrate themselves into the economic and social lives of their new
homes and thereby become enmeshed in the place. Bald et al. look at
the experiences of South Asian people on the move, but emphasize the
lens of US imperial power in shaping the process as the larger political
forces of the Cold War, the War on Terror, and global capitalism affect
IntRoductIon 21
everyday experiences (2014). Tasneem Siddiqui offers the experiences
of the women from Bangladesh who migrate mostly to the Arab states
as domestic workers (2001). Gauri Bhattacharya and Susan Schoppelrey
focus on the imaginations of South Asian migrants before migrating
to North America and their post-immigration experiences. They also
emphasize the unrealistic expectations that South Asian migrant parents
place on their first-generation immigrant children, which result in
substantial stress and anxiety (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey 2004). Each
of these works highlights migrant communities’ complex, conflicted,
and dynamic sense of belonging in multiple places.
The chapters of this book illustrate these nuances, while also recognizing
that there is something distinctive about the experience of migrating to a
new home and navigating the multiple attachments that it produces. The
contributors consider how migrants experience lives on the move and how
they maintain connections to their ancestral home through literature and
collective memory.
Structure of the Book
This book brings together an interdisciplinary and international group
of scholars in the elds of Anthropology, Development Studies, English
Literature, Geography, History, Migration Studies, Political Science,
Psychology, and Sociology based in Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh,
Belgium, Croatia, India, Japan, and the United States to answer the
overarching question of the book: How do borders and restrictions on
mobilit y afect the lives of people from South Asia and beyond? The chapters
investigate borders and migration in South Asia with an emphasis on
three themes: experiencing borders in South Asia, migrant lives on the
journey to new homes, and diasporic representations of mobility and
borders. The contribution of this volume is to add layers of complexity
to this story, as the individual experiences of people on the move belie
the desire for easy metanarratives to explain a global picture. Instead,
the contributors provide multiple snapshots of the situation at the local
scale of South Asian borders, at the regional scale of labour migration
within South Asia, and at the global scale of migration to Europe and
North America.
The rst section of the book focuses on the lingering impact of Parti-
tion’s borders within South Asia by considering how these lines continue
to impact the lives of those who live in the borderlands. In Chapter1, Reece
22 Reece Jones and Md. azMeaRy FeRdoush
Jones investigates the local actions that transgress, subvert, and ignore
the imposition of sovereign authority at the borders of sovereign states.
To reconcile conicting views on resistance, this chapter proposes the
concept of ‘spaces of refusal’ to understand a range of activities that are
not overt political resistance but nevertheless refuse to abide by the binary
enframing of state territorial and identity categories. In Chapter2, Edward
Boyle and Mirza Zul qur Rahman draw on eldwork at cross-border
markets along the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura to
examine how the multi-layered infrastructure of border management and
governance afects local community interactions and the ow of goods,
political processes, and cross-border connectivity. In Chapter3, Azizul
Rasel tells the neglected micro-narrative of the Adivasi Lushai people
living in the borderlands of Bangladesh in the Chittagong Hill Tracts,
examining how they deal with the border and the increasing surveillance
of the Indian and Bangladeshi states in their everyday life.
The second section of the book looks at longer-distance migrations,
both within South Asia and to the Middle East and Europe. In Chapter4,
against a backdrop of rapid urbanization and growing internal migration,
Kavitha Rajagopalan argues that new forms of cross-border migration, as
well as the entrenchment of nationalistic and Islamophobic approaches
to citizenship and migration policymaking, are complicating the already
complex picture of citizenship and belonging in contemporary South
Asia. In Chapter5, Ananya Chakraborty draws on case studies of undocu-
mented Bangladeshi women who are engaged in various informal sector
occupations in Maharashtra to highlight the multiple vulnerabilities
and threats that they face, not only due to their status as undocumented
migrants, but because of their gender positioning in the informal labour
market. In Chapter6, Andrea Wright uses ethnographic and archival
research conducted in the United Arab Emirates and India to illustrate
how the Indian government developed and implemented emigration
policies that viewed women as ‘vulnerable subjects’ at risk of tracking.
In Chapter7, James Weir and Rohullah Amin recount the harrowing
story of Akbar, a young Afghan man who set out on foot from Kabul
to try to reach Frankfurt with millions of other people on the move in
the summer of 2015. This  rst-person account of one migrant’s journey
helps to humanize the confusing and overwhelming story of the global
migration crisis. In Chapter8, Marta Zorko provides an overview of how
the militarization, securitization, and hardening of borders in Europe
afect migrants from South Asia.
IntRoductIon 23
The third section of the book considers South Asian diasporic experi-
ences in Africa, Europe, and Fiji through literature and historical memory.
In Chapter9, Malini Sur and Masja van Meeteren draw on the experience of
Bangladeshi men who have migrated to Belgium to argue that integration
should be conceptualized not as the outcome of ideal type national models
of citizenship and integration, but as the product of the intersection of
migrant aspirations and strategies within regulatory frameworks. In
Chapter10, Riddhi Shah argues that, despite hundreds of years of movement
between East Africa and India through the Indian Ocean, histories of
slavery are conspicuous in their absence in Indian and Gujarati collective
memories. The chapter analyses Gunvantrai Poptabhai Acharya’s novel
Dariyalal, which illustrates the lingering impact of migration and diaspora
in the region. In Chapter11, Tana Trivedi focuses on the work of Sudesh
Mishra, a contemporary Fijian-Indian-Australian poet who addresses the
idea of the fragmented diasporic identities of Indo-Fijians and the inability
to locate a ‘home’ amidst borders of history, memories, and transnational
identities. This chapter brings to fore the sense of fragmentation and
dislocation that mark the lives of Indo-Fijians and demonstrates that
Mishra is a transnational poet whose work proves that home is a contested
space in Fiji.
A Point of Departure
In the end, the dozens of Bangladeshis selling Chinese-made sel e sticks to
tourists from the United States and Japan at the Colosseum, an ancient ruin
of the Roman Empire located in Italy, illustrates the reality of borders and
mobility in the twenty- rst century. Things are clearly changing. People
move to new places, create new cultural ideas, establish new networks and
alliances, and challenge the  xity of the state and its borders. However, the
past still matters: people maintain connections, albeit sometimes tenuous,
to their previous homes, families, and belief systems. The borders and
states that divide up territories and protect privileges deeply shape the
experiences of people on the move. The history of what was once there is
still important, even as new people and new technologies change what the
relationships between people, places, and the world around us will look like
in the future. The chapters of this book delve into the relationships between
xity and movement, continuity and change, and the past and the future
as they unravel the complex interplay between borders and mobility in
South Asia and beyond.
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About the Authors
Reece Jones is a Professor of Geography and Environment at the University
of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the author of two books, Border Walls: Securit y and
the War on Terror in the United States, India and Israel (2012, Zed Books) and
Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move (2016, Verso). He also edited
Placing the Border in Everyday Life with Corey Johnson (2014, Routledge
Border Regions Series) and Open Borders: In Defense of Free Movement (2018,
University of Georgia Press).
Md. Azmear y Ferdoush is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Dhaka,
Bangladesh and a Ph.D. candidate in Geography and Environment at the
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is an East West Centre Graduate Degree
Fellow. His research interests include, but are not limited to, borders and
enclaves with a focus on Bangladesh and India, social theory, political
geography, (non)citizenship, state, and migration. He has published several
peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters on borders and enclaves,
and his op-eds have been featured in the Daily Star and the Dhaka Tribune.
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In migration studies, the nexus between migration and development in the global South has been meticulously debated. However, a unanimous resolution to this debate has not been found, due to the ever-changing nature of international migration. This book advances knowledge on the global debate on the migration-development relationship by documenting experiences in a number of countries in South Asia. Drawing on the experiences of global South Asians, this volume documents the impact of migration on the social, economic, and political fields in the broader context of development. It also presents a regional experience by looking into the migration-development nexus in the context of South Asia, and analyses the role South Asian migrants and diaspora communities play in the South Asian society. Contributions from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including sociology, anthropology, political science, international relations and economics, document the development implications of South Asian migration. Broad in scope in terms of contents, timeline of migration, and geographical coverage, the book presents empirically-based case studies involving India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal and their emigrants living and working in different parts of the world. Going beyond reporting the impacts of migration on economic development by highlighting the implications of ‘social development’ on society, this book provides a fascinating contribution to the fields of Asian Development, Migration Studies and South Asian Studies.
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After a complex and protracted negotiation for almost 70 years, Bangladesh and India decided to exchange their border enclaves in 2015. Almost 55,000 people were living in these enclaves at the time of exchange and they were given the option to choose their state of citizenship. Drawing on this exchange, this chapter sheds light on how people choose their citizenship and how modern states make legible spaces. In doing so, the chapter argues that the choice of citizenship is not always determined by ideology or sense of belonging but, to a great extent, by factors such as economic opportunities, religious affiliation, kinship ties, and perceived life chances. At the same time, it argues that modern states are loathe to have ungoverned spaces within their territory and are keen to make legible spaces. In the end, the enclaves became a significant pawn in negotiations between the two states to an extent that had little to do with the actual conditions in the enclaves.
Despite a growing body of work, scholars have rarely engaged with the classic divide of structure and agency in border studies. Drawing on theory of structuration by Anthony Giddens, this article proposes a theoretical approach and/or tool that views borders as the result of a continuous production and reproduction of structure(s) and agents. The framework offers an analysis of what makes each border distinct and of the performance of borderwork. The article briefly overviews major theoretical approaches in critical border studies, presents a brief summary of the theory of structuration, discusses the proposed theoretical framework for border studies, and presents a case study based on the recently exchanged Bangladesh-India border enclaves to demonstrate the application of this framework.