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InterAsian Connections V: Seoul Workshop -- Frontier Assemblages: Political Economies of Margins and Resource Frontiers in Asia

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Michael Eilenberg - Organizer

This workshop interrogates the contemporary expansion of so-called resource frontiers into marginal spaces throughout Asia. The past decades have seen a radical and unprecedented transformation in margins—borders, upland areas, and “waste” zones—throughout Asia. Millions of acres of land have been rapidly converted to large-scale, export-oriented monoculture production. Often, though not exclusively, the funding and management of these resource frontiers comes from elsewhere in Asia. We are interested in exploring the implications for the sovereignty, security, and political economy of the states in which these transformations are occurring; the new financial configurations that are driving it; the environmental impact of this expansion in these often ecologically vulnerable zones; and the impacts on the people who live in these rapidly transforming margins. While scholars have begun to direct attention towards these individual transformations, very little is known about their similarities and differences across space. It is clear that the expansion of palm oil, rubber, aquaculture, and other mono-culture commodities have radically altered territorial sovereignty, ecology, and human security throughout the region. Yet, what similarities and differences do these transformations share? What are the broad and micro dynamics of resource frontier transformation? And what do these shifts portend for margins, which have and continue to be sites of intense securitization, conflict, and expansion? Understanding these dynamics helps to clarify processes that are reshaping the geopolitics of the region and reformatting millions of people’s relationship to land. We understand the linkages between foreign direct investment, large-scale resource extraction and territorial politics in the margins of Asia as frontier assemblages to engage the multiple meanings and notions associated with regions where resource frontiers and marginal spaces interlock. We use the term “assemblage” to indicate a historically contingent convergence that facilitates expansion into frontier zones. We conceptualize frontiers as, first, a discourse of untouched wilderness and infinite unexploited resources and, second, as moving zones of state control and resource extraction. We see frontier assemblages as projects in the making, which are unstable and in flux. We understand these frontier assemblages as broad, yet historically and spatially specific forms of resource exploitation now unfolding in the margins of Asia. This workshop interrogates this unprecedented transformation and the complex array of actors, forces, and ecologies that constitute it. We wish to explore four key questions: (1) What are the commonalities and differences in frontier development and resource exploitation across different national borders in Asia; (2) What kinds of framings of “space” and “territory” legitimatize and mobilize expansion into frontier zones and subsequent land enclosures; (3) what kinds of capital flows and financial configurations are mobilized to produce new resource frontiers; (4) and how do largescale development schemes in marginal areas articulate with projects of national security, sovereignty, and state-formation in different geopolitical contexts?
27 Apr 201630 Apr 2016


ConferenceInterAsian Connections V: Seoul Workshop -- Frontier Assemblages: Political Economies of Margins and Resource Frontiers in Asia
LocationSeoul National University Asia Center
CountryKorea, Republic of

ID: 95498962