How do we understand interconnections, communications, and flows in territories as varied as Yunnan, Burma or Myanmar, northeast India, and eastern Bengal?
This conference will be the culmination of a series of engagements with junior and senior scholars in the region, in workshops, ongoing conversations, and field site visits as part of the project ‘The India-China Corridor’, funded by the Swedish Research Council.
Characterised by a dramatic topography formed across geological time by the massive pressures of colliding tectonic plates, these eastern trans-Himalayan spaces encompass terrains from tropical sea-level deltas made up of enormous rivers and low-lying fields to icy mountain peaks reaching more than 8,000 meters. Living organisms have adapted in many unique ways to the diverse ecosystems. Today the region is considered the meeting point of two of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots.
As the site of millennium-old trade routes (sometimes referred to as the south-western branch of the Silk Road network), the region has long been a hallmark of human mobility. Yet the past several centuries have been marked by clashes and imperial competition between British, Manchu, French, and Burmese forces. Such eighteenth- and nineteenth-century rivalries were followed by a closure of borders. Regional revolts opened and closed mountain passes, and eruptions of violence during the World Wars merged with increasingly heavy-handed state control. Yet organic and inorganic matter continued to move across the region, and it continues to do so today. Natural conditions, animals, and people (and the goods and ideas people bring) continually transform places and landscapes. Sometimes this happens in spite of political border making and sometimes because of it. How can we identify the significance and logics of mobility within these historical trajectories?
David Ludden is Professor of History at New York University. He has served on the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1981-2007 and at New York University since 2007.
Presentations Tracking routes: Imperial competition in the late nineteenth century Shan-Dai Mountains’ Professor Gunnel Cederlöf, Linnaeus University