In Asia, where authoritarian-developmental states have proliferated, statehood and social control are heavily contested in borderland spaces. As a result, in the post-Cold War world, borders have not only redefined Asian incomes and mobilities, they have also rekindled neighbouring relations and raised questions about citizenship and security.

The contributors to the Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands highlight some of these processes taking place at the fringe of the state. Offering an array of comparative perspectives of Asian borders and borderlands in the global context, this handbook is divided into thematic sections, including:

  • Livelihoods, commodities and mobilities

  • Physical land use and agrarian transformations

  • Borders and boundaries of the state and the notion of statelessness
  • Re-conceptualizing trade and the economy in the borderlands
  • The existence and influence of humanitarians, religions, and NGOs
  • The militarization of borderlands

Causing us to rethink and fundamentally question some of the categories of state, nation, and the economy, this is an important resource for students and scholars of Asian Studies, Border Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, and Anthropology.

part 1|74 pages

Conceptual framing

chapter 1|13 pages

Violence in Asian borderlands

chapter 2|12 pages

Asia’s gendered borderlands

chapter 3|14 pages

Intimate militarism

Domesticating the border in rural Central Asia

chapter 4|17 pages

Borders and bordering in Asia

chapter 5|16 pages

Zomia and beyond 1

part 2|74 pages

Livelihoods, commodities, mobilities

chapter |3 pages


chapter 6|11 pages

Political livelihoods in the northeast borderlands of Cambodia

Legacy of the past, territorial incorporation, and confrontation

chapter 7|8 pages

Cross-border commodities

Processual histories, commodity chains, and the yak tail trade

chapter 8|13 pages

Old routes, new roads

Proximity across the China–Pakistan border

chapter 9|13 pages

Making place within a geopolitical frontier

Mae Aw (Ban Rak Thai)

chapter 10|11 pages

Making connectivity work

Exploring cross-border livelihoods between Kazakhstan and China

part 3|50 pages

Physical land use and agrarian transformations

chapter |3 pages


chapter 12|12 pages

Genesis of state space

Frontier commodification in Malaysian Borneo

chapter 13|10 pages

Frontier constellations

Agrarian expansion and sovereignty on the Indonesian–Malaysian border

chapter 14|12 pages

Beyond ‘natural’ pressures

Chinese agriculture in the Russian Far East

chapter 15|11 pages

A failed market experiment and ignored livelihoods

Jatropha expansion in the Sino–Vietnamese borderlands

part 4|76 pages

Borders and boundaries of the state, governance, and the production of statelessness

chapter |3 pages


chapter 17|12 pages

Turning your back to the border

Federalism, territory, and claims for autonomy in the Nepal–India borderland

chapter 18|13 pages

A proliferation of border interfaces

Ordering insecurity for migrants in the Thai–Burmese borderlands

chapter 19|11 pages

The decision to move

Post-exchange experiences in the former Bangladesh–India border enclaves

chapter 20|11 pages

The backdoors of resistance

Identities in the Malay Peninsula’s maritime borderlands

chapter 21|12 pages

Ethnic reconstruction and Austronesian strategies at the borders

The Moken social space in Burma

part 5|56 pages

It’s all about relations: re-conceptualizing trade and the economy in the borderlands

chapter |3 pages


chapter 22|10 pages

Accumulating trust

Uyghur traders in the Sino–Kyrgyz border trade after 1991

chapter 23|11 pages

The “leech plot”

Discourses on alleged deception strategies among traders in the Sino–Vietnamese borderlands

chapter 24|10 pages

Nobody stops and stays anymore

Motor roads, uneven mobilities, and conceptualizing borderland modernity in highland Nepal

chapter 25|9 pages

Cultivating consumer markets

Ethnic minority traders and the refashioning of cultural commodities in the Sino–Vietnamese border uplands

chapter 26|11 pages

Invisible trade

Sovereign decisions on the Sino–Russian border

part 7|57 pages

Militarization of borderlands

chapter |4 pages


chapter 31|8 pages

Border, checkpoint, bodies 1

chapter 32|11 pages

Musical crossings over the militarised borderland

A case study of the Ogasawara Islands

chapter 33|12 pages

Evaded states

Security and control in the Sino–North Korean border region

chapter 34|11 pages

Border and road regimes in Central Asia

Ordering disorder at an Uzbek–Kazakh checkpoint

chapter 35|9 pages

Bordered spaces

Spatial strategies in a “disputed border”