Between Frontiers: Nation and Identity in a Southeast Asian Borderland

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By Noboru Ishikawa

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 spaces shapes the existence of people living in border zones, where they live between nations.

Based on the 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? By posing such questions in the context of concrete circumstances where a village boundary coincides with a national border, this study delineates state-society dialectics and the production of the nation viewed from the margins both as history.


"Ishikawa has a deep and long-term knowledge of his subject. The mixture of historical, anthropological, and sociological approaches is inspiring, and he mixes these genres skillfully. A detailed and impressive thick description permeates the book from the first page to the last, but it is also theoretically sophisticated. This combination sets it apart from quite a few other studies that accomplish one or the other but not both." - Eric Tagliacozzo

"A magnificent, trail-blazing book..." - Marshall Poe

Noboru Ishikawa is Associate Professor with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University. The Japanese version of this book won the 2008 Kashiyama Junzo Award for social sciences in Asia.

Publication Year: 2010
288 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-355-8, Paperback

NUS Press