Organized Panel Session
I examine the entanglement of global war doctrines (WW2 and Cold War) in shaping the imaginations and experiences of the political futures of borderland minorities like the ‘hill’ tribes across Indo-Myanmar (Burma) frontiers. I historicise the premium on violence and the itinerancy of bordering, bureaucratic and cartographic practices which ultimately sought to delineate bodies of subjects as well as those of incipient nation-states.
A form of selective legibility, coercion, surveillance and developmentalism punctuated by violence, became concomitant with the idea of ‘national’ accommodation of these minorities. At the same time, a dialectic discourse of political loyalties and performances of violence, intersected with ecological, territorial and racial ideas of governance. I illustrate how colonial tropes like ‘martial races’ and ‘wartime loyalty’ intersected with other ‘primitivist’ ideas of ‘head-hunting’, ‘slavery’, ‘indigeneity’ and related modes of cultural interpretation; and continued to inform the epistemology of governance. At the same time, technologies of violence drew upon cultural ideas and manifested itself in frontier warfare, counter-insurgency and demographic control practices. I highlight the relevance of these historical processes and revisit the historiographies of frontier and borderland-making through ‘ceasefire politics’, ‘small wars’, ‘counterinsurgency’, ‘cosmetic federalism’ and ‘tribal development’.
This is relevant because I highlight the appropriation of cultural and military-developmental discourses in relation to resource distribution, politics of rights, recognition and citizenship. This anticipates a peculiar type of relations of material-culture, political allegiance-networks and violence in the region since the mid-twentieth century. The continuities can be historically situated in the crises and conflicts today.