"Lines of Control: Religion and Militarization of the borderlands"

Lines of Control: Religion and Militarization of the borderlands

Date: 15-16 October 2012

Venue Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Goettingen, Germany

Convenor  Ngô Thi Thanh Tâm (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Goettingen)


Panel Abstract

Much has been written on the porousness of the borders and the active agency of border-landers in making use of extensive land and maritime networks to cross international borders for their economic, ethnic, religious and political advancement. While acknowledging these as the de facto aspects of borderland, this panel calls for attention to the on-going militarization of the borderlands in many part of Asia today.

In a narrow sense, militarization refers to the process by which states enhance their capacity to defend their territorial sovereignty. The papers in this panel focus on how militarization, in a broader understanding of the term, impacts society in the borderland and the way military interests, values, and discourses infiltrate into social life in these areas. Michael Szonyi’ s (2008) work on the history of the Jinmen islands is the inspiration for this panel. He shows brilliantly how militarization can change a society in a variety of unexpected and unintended ways.

Presenters at this panel will use ethnographic material to show that the militarization of the borderland is a “step-by-step process by which something becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria” (Cythia Enloe 2000). Specifically, they will focus on the effects of militarization on religious institutions and practices of the borderland. The sacralization of national territory in forms of religious nationalism (Peter Van der Veer 1994) takes acute forms in borderlands. Presentations will range from the effect of militarization on Christian conversion and the construction of memorials of fallen soldiers in Nagaland, to the crowning and dethroning of gods and goddess’ in a temple at a Sino-Vietnamese border, to the construction of border subjectivity among Shi’as in Kargil, and to the ballooned evangelism in the demilitarized North/South Korean border.



Michael Szonyi. 2008. Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s lives. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Van Der Veer, Peter. 1994. Religious Nationalism. Hindus and Muslims in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press.