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Yunnan-Burma-Bengal Corridor: Process Geographies in the Making of Modern Asia

Yunnan-Burma-Bengal Corridor

Process Geographies in the Making of Modern Asia

The interconnection of Bengal, Burma, and Yunnan has a long history in both human and environmental terms. Since the advent of modern era in the 18th century, the variety and complexity of pathways, corridors, and networks of livelihood-making, commerce, religions, political systems, and ethno-linguistic families have become ever highlighted in colonial encounters, changing political systems, inter-ethnic flows of natural resources and human labors, and academic research. The works of Edmund Leach (1954), James Scott (2009), Willem van Schendel (2004; 2005), Gunnel Cederlöf (2008; 2014), Mandy Sadan (2013), Jean Michaud (2010; 2017), David Ludden (2003), C. Patterson Giersch (2006), Arupjyoti Saikia (2011), Bin Yang (2004), Dan Smyer Yü and Jean Michaud (2017), and more, all attest to the deep entanglement of the three regions and their wider connectivity with the eastern Himalayas, Southwest China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The transregionality and bordered connectivity of each of the three regions have simultaneously taken place in the modern era. 

This workshop aims to produce an interdisciplinary publication woven together with inter-related case studies and theoretical works with a focus on the concurrence of connectivity and disconnectivity between the three regions as a highly pronounced transregional characteristic in modern times. Invited participants are encouraged to address these questions: How did interregional caravan trade routes and commodities thread multiple communities together? In what ways did inter-ethnic marriage alliances ensure the continuity of trans-local commerce? How did environmental flows shape interregional human interactions? Did historical colonial encounters and local modern nation building process contribute to the concurrency of transregional connectivity and disconnectivity? How do we reconceptualize and reformulate the meanings of geography, space, place, corridor, network, and environment in these multifaceted nexuses of people, goods, and ideas?


5:00pm – 8:00pm                Inaugural session & YMU Presidential Banquet


·         Dan Smyer Yü, Director of the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies, Yunnan Minzu University

·         Gao Dengrong, Deputy Executive Director, Yunnan Provincial Institute for Ethnic Studies


Inaugural speakers: Na Jinhua, President of Yunnan Minzu University, and Gunnel Cederlöf, Professor of History, Linnaeus University

Keynote speaker: Duan Gang, Vice President of Yunnan Minzu University

“‘Belt and Road’: the Construction and Development of Bangladesh-China-India-Burma Economic Corridor”

Translator: Li Yunxia, Department of Sociology, Yunnan Minzu University

April 18  

Venue: Seminar Room (B201), Yunnan Provincial Institute for Ethnic Studies (2nd floor)

Yunnan Minzu University (Chenggong campus), Kunming

9:00 – 10:30   Corridors and Transregionality of Modern Nation-states

·         Chairperson/Opening remarks: Gunnel Cederlöf, Linnaeus University


Willem van Schendel, Amsterdam University  

“Framing Spaces between India and China”

Mandy Sadan, SOAS Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, University of London

“Mapping and knowledge of the India China corridor in the early 19th century”

Discussant: Dan Smyer Yü, Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies, YMU

10:45 – 12:15 Early Modern Borderlands and Cartographical Practices

Chairperson/discussant: Gunnel Cederlöf, Linnaeus University


Joy LK Pachuau, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

“Circulatory regimes in the Indo-Burma Borderlands: A case study from the Chin-Lushai Hills, 19th century.”

Ma Jianxiong, Division of Humanities, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

“The dowry land system and chieftains of Shan-Dai borderlands between Yunnan and Burmese kingdoms from the Ming to the Qing dynasties: the construction of a decentralized institution in the frontier”

14:30 – 16:00 Ethnic Alliances/Conflicts in Sino-Burmese Borderlands, 1500s-2000s

Chairperson/discussant: Mandy Sadan, SOAS University of London


Wen-Chin Chang, Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies, RCHSS, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

“Clandestine Travel across the Sino-Burmese Border During the Cold War”

Wang Jianhua (Nyawrbyeivq Aryoeq), Yunnan Provincial Institute for Ethnic Studies, Yunnan Minzu University

"A Brief History of Special Region No. 4 of East Shan State: A Solution to Ethnic Conflicts in Myanmar?"

April 19

9:00 – 10:30 Environmental Flows and A More-than Human World

Chairperson/discussant: Arupjyoti Saikia, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati


Ambika Aiyadurai, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar

“From Obscurity to Popularity: Two stories of bird conservation from Northeast India,” co-authored with Sayan Banerjee

Iftekhar Iqbal, the Universiti Brunei Darussalam

“Ethnography of water: Mobility and space-making along the rivers of northeastern South Asia and mainland Southeast Asia.” 

10:45 – 12:15 Transboundary Migrations and Civilizational Encounters

Chairperson/discussant: Jianxiong Ma, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology


Bryce Beemer, SSRC Transregional Research Fellow for InterAsian Contexts and Connections, University of Hawaii

“Manipuri War Captives in Upper Burma: Histories of Religious Creolization and Transcultural Exchange in the India-China Corridor”

Li Yunxia, Department of Sociology, Yunnan Minzu University

“The Haw Chinese on a Civilising Mission: the Influence of Yunnanese Immigrants in Northern Laos and Myanmar in the Late Qing Dynasty”

13:50 – 15:30 Hybrid Zones, Inter-ethnic politics, and Trade in Eastern Himalayan Borderlands, the 8th century – current

Chairperson/discussant: Willem van Schendel, Amsterdam University


Shen Haimei, Yunnan Provincial Institute for Ethnic Studies, Yunnan Minzu University

“The Erhai Regional History of the Pre-Nanzhao Kingdom in the Middle Ground of Multi-Civilizations”

Henrik Möller, Lund University

“Human-Animal Analogies in Ethnic Identifications, Alliances, and Conflicts among Rohingya Jade Traders in the Myanmar-China Borderlands”

Li Quanmin, Yunnan Minzu University

“Taste Identification and the Cross-border Flow of Sour Tea of De’ang on the China and Myanmar borderland”