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November 15, 2018

CK Choi Building
1855 West Mall, Rm. #120
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

The irony of open borders: mobility, citizenship, and ethnicity in Himalayan South Asia

Sara Shneiderman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, UBC

November 15, 2018
CK Choi, Rm. #120 at 12:15 pm
Lunch will be available starting at 11:45 am

Abstract - In this era of travel bans and renewed populist nationalism, arguments for open borders and global citizenship appear ever more compelling. Yet the actual effects of open borders in shaping prospects for inclusive citizenship may not always be as imagined. Drawing upon 20 years of ongoing ethnographic research across the borders of Nepal and India, this photographically illustrated talk shows how the political-historical reality of the postcolonial open border between the two countries has yielded unexpected results for many people who live along it.

In both contexts, members of marginalized communities are often unable to gain full recognition from the state in which they are born, due to ethno-racialized frameworks for regulating citizenship. I ask: in such contexts, how do the experiences of both those who negotiate multiple citizenships, and those who possess no citizenship (de facto stateless people), complicate state-promoted narratives of singular citizenship and nationalist belonging, yielding their own forms of political action? How have global discourses of indigeneity and marginality worked to counter neocolonial forms of cultural imperialism, challenging nationalist claims to territory through locally-emergent social movements? I consider what it means to examine these questions within non-diasporic contexts of regular regional mobility across land borders, where many of the received analytical frameworks for understanding the histories, politics, and socialities of settler colonialism and trans-oceanic migration may not apply.

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The irony of open borders: mobility, citizenship, and ethnicity in Himalayan South Asia