Politics and International Relations
The Second World War disrupted the conceptions of British India and Burma’s territorial and governmental limits. This paper looks at British India’s frontiers to locate political negotiations in dealing with the ephemerality and the itinerancy of bordering, bureaucratic and cartographic practices which ultimately sought to delineate the bodies of subjects as well as those of incipient nation-states. Viewed from its margins, the frontier was riddled with ‘blank spaces’ after the War. Approaching decolonisation along with threats from competing state-like interests meant re-negotiating and responding to political changes as well as seeking to consolidate ethno-territorial boundaries. This also encompasses an idea that (in a non-teleological sense), frontiers were to be imposed with modalities of ‘bordering’, and both would remain incomplete processes.
Political entities like India and Burma, as colonial domains and later as independent nation-states, tried to render their limits legible and claim control over these frontiers through projects of selective knowing. I argue and highlight the pervasiveness of the colonial logic of imagining ‘recalcitrant’ and ‘remote’ spaces as part of ‘exceptional’ geographies. I problematize these assumptions by illustrating the contingency of bordering practices and navigational capabilities that reflect upon agency and itinerancy. The 'blind spots' of state-making and community production with colonial subjects or as citizens may allow us to understand how specific spaces were understood as sites of precarity, while simultaneously accommodating fluid spatial and cultural particularities.