Third South Asian Border Studies Conference

The third South Asian Border Studies conference was organised by the Department of International Relations (DIR), South Asian University (SAU) in collaboration with the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya (MMV), Banaras Hindu University(BHU), Varanasi, from 17th – 19th April 2023. DIR organises this conference every two years, the first one being in 2017, and the second one in 2019. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference could not be organised in 2021. This year the conference was supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and Borders in Globalization (BIG). The theme for the third South Asian Border Studies conference was “Intra and inter-regional connectivity – South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia”. In this three-day conference, scholars from South Asia, North America and Europe participated and presented their papers on border related themes.

The inauguration session in the Mahamana Hall began with the formal welcome address of the esteemed guests. Prof. Shubha Rao, Head of the Department Political Science, BHU, chaired the inaugural session. In the inaugural session, Prof. Sanjay Chaturvedi – Dean, FSS, underlined the relevance of Varanasi city. Prof. Chaturvedi drawing from Diana Eck’s book, spoke of ‘scared geographies’ and how ancient Banaras is a confluence of cultures, a perfect example of social intersection and connectivity. Prof. Akhilesh Raghubanshi, Director, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Sustainable Development (IESD), BHU highligthed about two of the most critical trans- border environmental problems, i.e. air pollution and water pollution. Prof. Sanjay Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Bihar, stressed the importance of the sociological and anthropological approaches in the study of borders and borderland people. Prof. Srivastava added that there is a need to develop new theories, approaches, and methodologies as we can’t understand and resolve border issues by mainly relying on Western methods.

The Keynote address at the conference was delivered by Dr Paul Fryer of the University of Eastern Finland, who talked about how to study borders by bringing examples from his expertise on Central Asian Borders. On day one, there was also a round table discussion on Border Studies in South Asia: Challenges and Way Ahead. In this round table, Prof. Sanjay Chaturvedi, Prof Nimmi Kurian and Dr Dhananjay Tripathi presented their perspectives. On day two, Mr Sanjeev Chopra discussed his book ‘We the People of the States of Bharat- The Making and Remaking of India’s Internal Boundaries’. The second day ended with an excellent discussion on the collection of poems ‘Nakshanama’. Dr. Sarfaraz Alam of BHU has written these poems explaining that maps are not merely lines; it is of socio-cultural, political and historical relevance. Dr. Vaishali Raghuvanshi, the co-convenor and local host of the conference, also presented the conference report. This year during the conference, the Association of South Asian Border Studies Scholars also gave the lifetime achievement award to Prof. Paula Banerjee for her persistent contribution to Border Studies in South Asia.

On day three, Prof. Emmanuel Brunet Jailly delivered a special lecture on Borders in the 21st century. Prof. Emmanuel discussed his project, giving details on how borders in the 21st century differ in their role and function.

There were 150 presentations in 32 sessions covering some 25 themes on borders studies.
Several SAU alumni and students from the Department of IR and other departments have also presented papers. From the Department of IR, Prof. Sanjay Chaturvedi, Dr Jayashree Vivekanandan, Dr Nabarun Roy and Dr Dhananjay Tripathi participated in the conference. The conference was a big success both in terms of participation and quality deliberation on different themes.

(With inputs from Dr. Vaishali Raghuvanshi)