The RISEZAsia project, led by Associate Professor Michael Eilenberg (2016-2019), studies the emergence and proliferation of new Special Economic Zones (SEZ) that promote the development of remote and resource rich borderlands across Asia. The project aims to develop tools for critical engagement with the unique forms of capitalism and governance instigated by SEZs. Secondly, in addition to its contribution to theoretical framings of borderland political economy, the research is significant for documenting the processes through which Asian borderlands currently are experiencing some of the largest land-grabs in modern history.
The RISEZAsia project is funded by a Starting Grant from Aarhus University Research Foundation.
DEVELOPMENT ZONES IN ASIAN BORDERLANDS
Across Asia, different borders and borderlands are pivotal sites of capital accumulation. While borderlands can themselves be considered as ‘exceptional spaces’ (Jones 2012, Dunn and Cons 2014, Murton 2017) that exhibit ‘graduated sovereignty’ (Ong 2006) owing to their peripheral locations, their gradual transition into vectors of economic growth (Arnold 2012, Tan 2017, Neveling 2019) has created new forms of territorialisation, assemblages and socio-spatial changes (Cons and Eilenberg 2019). These changes challenge dominant ways of understanding and analysing borderlands. Borderlands in Asia now represent a form of ‘nested exceptionalism’ wherein the interplay of exception and rule creates intersections for networks, markets and political rule (Bach, 2011).
The transformation of borderlands into new territories of capital accumulation has been enabled by the proliferation of ‘Zones’ as a result of specific economic activity and constellations of control and regulation. The spatial enclaving or zoning provides attractive regulatory environments and infrastructure for investment, exploitation and the securitization of resources and populations (Van Schendel 2006, Sidaway 2007, Nyiri 2012).
We approach the phenomenon of the ‘Development Zone’ as a key location and analytic for understanding the intricate political and economic processes that within the last two decades have turned Asian borderlands into ‘spatial capital accumulation machines’ of experimentation and dispossession (Bach 2011).
Special economic zones, free trade zones, export-processing zones, economic corridors and urban enclaves are different types of development zones that are now visible in the borderland landscape, characterised by three specific features (i) interlocking arenas of power, profit and inequality (ii) socio-spatial segregation and (iii) aspirations for modernity. Development zones are also spaces of variegated claims by the state, transnational and/or corporate interests, and local communities.
Each development zone while entangled, in some form or the other, within the larger global economy, is simultaneously highly localised. Development zones in borderlands therefore come to represent varied political and economic processes, inherent asymmetries of power, and consequent inequalities and exclusions.
17-18 JUNE, 2019
The workshop will focus on special development zones as a model of capital accumulation, a heuristic device through which to understand development, foreign investment, modernist fantasies and the changing power dynamics in Asian borderlands.
This two-day workshop will present an excellent opportunity for researchers from different institutions and disciplines to forge new collaborations, networks and produce exciting research on Asia.
The workshop will be held at Anthropology Department (Moesgaard Campus), Aarhus University.