HY4A8      Half Unit
Asian Borderlands

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Qingfei Yin SAR M.06


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This seminar takes a borderland perspective to Modern Asian History, challenging the practice of treating national territories as the building blocks of academic enquiry. Through a wide range of readings, the participants examine the transformation of modern Asia by centring on the historically marginal societies and come to better understand a borderlands approach to the studies of history. The first part of the course follows a chronological scheme, tracing the changing political, social, and cultural landscapes of Asian borderlands in the eras of imperial encounters, decolonization, and the Cold War. The second part of the seminar focuses on a series of analytical lenses commonly applied in the study of borderlands history, such as state power, state resistance, identity, ethnicity, and environment. Through the course of the seminar, students will critically analyse “space,” “frontiers,” “geo-body,” “Zomia,” and other important concepts that have informed the historiography of Asian borderlands. Through the assigned readings, discussion, and written assignments, students will also learn about how historians synthesize contributions originating from different regional historiographical literatures.


10 x 2-hour seminars in the Autumn Term. There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Autumn Term.


Formative coursework

One essay (2000-2500 words) in the Autumn Term.

Indicative reading

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised ed. London: Verso, 2016.
  • Baldanza, Kathlene. Ming China and Vietnam: Negotiating Borders in Early Modern Asia. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Bhabha, Homi K. Nation and Narration. New York, NY: Routledge, 1990.
  • Chandler, Andrea. Institutions of Isolation: Border Controls in the Soviet Union and Its Successor States, 1917-1993. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014.
  • Davis, Bradley Camp. Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands. Seattle, WA: University of Washington press, 2017.
  • Gavrilis, George. The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Giersch, C. Patterson. Asian Borderlands: The Transformation of Qing China’s Yunnan Frontier. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.
  • Goscha, Christopher E. Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina. Copenhagen: NIAS Books, 2012.
  • Gupta, Charu and Mukul Sharma. Contested Coastlines: Fisherfolk, Nations and Borders in South Asia. New Delhi: Routledge, 2008.
  • Guyot-Réchard, Bérénice. Shadow States: India, China and the Himalayas, 1910-1962. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Ishikawa, Noboru. Between Frontiers: Nation and Identity in a Southeast Asian Borderland. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010.
  • Khan, Sulman Wasif. Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy: China’s Cold War and the People of the Tibetan Borderlands. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
  • Kinzley, Judd. Natural Resources and the New Frontier: Constructing Modern China’s Borderlands. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
  • Marsden, Magnus, and Benjamin Hopkins. Fragments of the Afghan Frontier. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Scott, James. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.
  • Song, Nianshen. Making Borders in Modern East Asia: The Tumen River Demarcation, 1881-1919. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 2018.
  • Sunderland, Willard. Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University press, 2004.
  • Szonyi, Michael. Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Tagliacozzo, Eric. Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and Trade along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865-1915. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.
  • Wilson, Thomas M. and Hastings Donnan. Border Identities: Nation and State at International Frontiers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Winichakul, Tongchai. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honululu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.


Essay (85%, 5000 words) in January.
Class participation (15%) in the AT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2022/23: 20

Average class size 2022/23: 10

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills