December 5, 2022

Between Frontiers: Nation and Identity in a Southeast Asian Borderland
Author: Noboru Ishikawa
Ohio University Press, 2010
$28 paperback
A staple of post-war academic writing, “nationalism” is a contentious and often unanalyzed abstraction that has come to be treated as something “imagined,” “fashioned,” and “disseminated.”
Between Frontiers restores the nation to the social field from which it has been abstracted by looking at how the emergence of national space shapes the existence of people living in border zones, where they live between nations.
Based on fieldwork in, and archival research on, the borderland between Malaysian Sarawak and Indonesian Borneo, this book explores what happens when the state actualizes its territoriality. How does the state maintain national space, and how do people strategically situate themselves as members of a local community, nation, and ethnic group in a social field designated as national territory?
Noboru Ishikawa grounds his discussion of border zones in materials gathered during two years of archival research and fieldwork relating to the boundary that separates Malaysian from Indonesian territory in western Borneo. His book considers how the state maintains its national space and how people strategically situate themselves by their community, nation, and ethnic group designated as national territory.
Examining these issues in the context of concrete circumstances, where a village boundary coincides with a national border, allows him to delineate the dialectical relationship between nation-state and borderland society both as history and as process. Scholars across the humanities and social sciences will learn from this masterful linking of history and ethnography, and of macro and micro perspectives.
A staple of postwar academic writing, “nationalism” is a contentious and often unanalyzed abstraction. It is generally treated as something “imagined,” “fashioned,” and “disseminated,” as an idea located in the mind, in printed matter, on maps, in symbols such as flags and anthems, and in collective memory. Between Frontiers restores the nation to the social field from which it has been abstracted by looking at how the concept shapes the existence of people in border zones, where they live between nations.
Noboru Ishikawa is an associate professor of social anthropology at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. His publications include Dislocating Nation-States: Globalization in Asia and Africa.

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