Organized Panel Session
This panel examines transnational trade, colonial rivalries, and the making of borders in the Sino-Burmese borderlands from the late nineteenth century until 1950. It characterizes state border-making as a multidirectional process influenced by the interactions between state agents, colonial officials, and local actors (chieftains, merchants, bandits) in a contested transnational space. By discussing the peculiarities of an understudied cross-border space, this panel widens the scope of inquiry on colonialism and modern nation-building in East and Southeast Asia. The papers address two key questions: How did the “stateless” territories and ethnically diverse peoples along the Sino-Burmese borderlands become part of colonial empires and modern nation-states? How did engagement with the state empower the indigenous population and reshape cross-border commerce, political institutions, and collective identities? Frances O’Morchoe examines how resource extraction in the mineral-rich Wa and Lahu areas molded the relationship between the borderland inhabitants and central states. Diana Duan addresses wealth accumulation and cross-border trade networks in the Yunnan borderlands. Eric Vanden Bussche discusses the establishment of a hybrid Sino-British legal system to curb cross-border crime and ascribe colonial and national identities to the indigenous peoples. Andres Rodriguez explores the impact of constitutional blueprints in China and Burma on state border-making policies and their implementation at the local level during the late 1940s.