The conference uses the metaphors of borders, mobility and identity as it seeks to understand the search for new terrains to study the frontiers in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia with a renewed interest in historicizing the diverse cultural formations, the ethno-geography, politics and economic linkages that traversed these regions in the recent decades. Asian frontiers provide enough empirical evidence to indicate widespread Asian connections which developed during the first millennium or even earlier through trade as well as culturally significant migrations. Cross-cultural encounters in these regions perhaps surpass the national political boundaries reinforced by Asia's geopolitics and contemporary security concerns. While the causal links between contemporary geographies and deep historical factors are simply too tenuous to be persuasive, recent academic writings have implicitly stressed the need to scrutinize the ways in which the intimate relationship between colonial and imperial practices and new social networks and patterns of relationships are being recreated and refashioned in the Asian borders.
Modern state-building associated with a deepening discourse on internal policies to control the mobility of non-citizen residents have however led to bordering in and bordering out of targeted ethnic communities. This leads us to a second and equally significant and confounding theme. The second theme therefore involves debates on political membership i.e., contesting expositions of who is an indigenous and who is a settler and who should be included and who should be excluded from the body politic.
Geopolitical security assessments made by legal enforcement agencies of individual countries problematize ethnonational identities in the context of current challenges that countries like India, China or Burma face to integrate their ethnic nationalities residing in the frontier regions. The politics of ethnicity, territory and marginality in the frontiers problematizes existing narratives on indigenous groups, tribes, ethnic minorities and spatial identities.