G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires

Living on the edge: Border-making as a strategy when facing global challenges

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires
Convenor
  • Lisa Hellman (University of Bonn)
  • Edmond Smith (University of Manchester)
Chair
  • Elena Smolarz (University of Bonn)
Commentator
  • Elena Smolarz (University of Bonn)
Panelists
  • Lisa Hellman (University of Bonn)
  • Edmond Smith (University of Manchester)
  • Charlotta Forss (Stockholm University / University of Oxford)
  • Mariana Amabile Boscariol (New University Lisbon)

Papers

  • Lisa Hellman
    Border making between two worlds: Russian and Qing expansion into Central Asia

    Border making between two worlds: Russian and Qing expansion into Central Asia

    In the late 17th and early 18th century, Russia expanded eastwards just as the Qing empire expanded westwards, both pushing into former semi-nomadic and nomadic polities. In Siberia, the influx of North American furs undermined the Russian dominance of the Baltic market and gave placed increased importance to the Sino-Russian fur trade. From both the Russian and the Chinese side, commercial concerns, coupled with political ambitions and underpinned by religious world making, encouraged increased commercial, diplomatic and scientific contact, and led to eastern settlement as well as forced migration into the borderlands. In this paper, the response from the Central Asian borderlands to this twin pressure will be examined, outlining strategies of commercial venture, political changes, scientific endeavours and strategic exclusion and exclusion of foreign actors in all of these fields.
  • Edmond Smith
    Beyond the Edge of the World: Responses to Globalisation in the Akan Goldfields

    Beyond the Edge of the World: Responses to Globalisation in the Akan Goldfields

    Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Akan goldfields became intricately linked into commercial webs that spread from Africa across the world. To the north, Wangara Arab merchants travelled south from Timbuktu to Bitu to trade for the precious commodity, and to the south Portuguese and other European traders sought to build new trading posts through which to access the trade. In the eyes of both groups, the Akan heartland lay beyond the edges of their worlds. Lying between these two expanding commercial and imperial zones, the Akan sought to carefully manage both borders, maintaining their independent productive and commercial practices while taking advantage of the opportunities each group offered. In this paper, the Akan response to their changing borders will be examined to offer a new perspective on both the history of early modern economic cultures in West Africa and how patterns of integration and exclusion were shaped by African practices of border making.
  • Charlotta Forss
    Borderlands in another world: New Sweden and the early modern conceptions of borderlands

    Borderlands in another world: New Sweden and the early modern conceptions of borderlands

    New Sweden, a Swedish colony between 1638 and 1655, exhibits many the traits usually associated with early American borderlands. During the seventeen years of Swedish colonial rule – and continuing after the Dutch and subsequent English takeovers – the territorial borders along the Delaware River were permeable and often conflicted, power relations multifaceted, and relations between individuals and groups interdependent and full of shifting loyalties. Yet, this does not tell us how those who came in contact with the colony conceptualized its place in the world. To what extent would the people involved in the early modern colonial enterprise have agreed that they were living in or traveling through geographical or metaphorical borderlands? To answer this question, the present paper examines cartographical, administrative and narrative sources from New Sweden, investigating how authorities and travelers conceptualized the place of the colony in the world and in relation to surrounding groups of people. The analysis shows how New Sweden was simultaneously conceived through the conceptual categories of affinity and distance: a borderlands, yet in another world.
  • Mariana Amabile Boscariol
    An artificial Island, a rigid border: Deshima and the European presence in early modern Japan

    An artificial Island, a rigid border: Deshima and the European presence in early modern Japan

    During the seventeenth century the route between Macao and Nagasaki, connected to Manila, was consolidated as one of the most profitable routes within the Iberian Empires. Yet, in spite of its importance for the Iberian traders, both China and Japan were able to resist and control the Europeans presence in their territories. During the sixteenth century, the Portuguese in China were almost completely confined to Macao, while in Japan, Portuguese Jesuits were able to obtain only limited access to the capital. However, even though the missionaries were an important go-between connecting Europe and the region, they gradually came to be identified as a threat by Japanese authorities. The situation of the Jesuits in Japan changed completely after a series of events: the promulgation of the first expulsion edict addressed to Christians in 1587; the first martyrdom in 1597; and the entrance of the Dutch in 1609, when the first official VOC delegation entered the archipelago. The persecution of Christians made the territory to be gradually more restricted for the Europeans, not only for the religious, until the point they were relocated and limited to the artificial island of Deshima, in Nagasaki. Considering this scenario, and that the Dutch were the only foreign group allowed to stay in Japan after 1640. This paper will reflect on the process of setting and hardening borders in Japan which culminated with the formation of Deshima, seeking also to understand better the differences the Japanese made between the Iberian and the Dutch activity during the seventeenth century.

Abstract

This panel explores how early modern communities living in port cities, border towns and other transport hubs experienced trade, migration and sovereignty in their day-to-day lives. Did they perceive themselves as being on the edges of the world? Were they ascribed such a position, and by whom? Drawing on interdisciplinary methodologies from geography, history and mobility studies we will trace border-making as a strategy – from below as well as from above – as a response to sweeping economic and political changes. Borderlands represent complex ecosystems, acting both as barriers and crossing-points, points of contact and conflict, and places of exchange and enforcement. As such, borders would be porous and solid simultaneously, and act as points of forced and voluntary integration parallel with processes of conscious exclusion (Ahmed, 2000). This panel will compare four borderland regions in the centuries preceding boundary making in the sense of the nation state, and asses the strategies and effects of border making in West Africa, Eastern Siberia, Delaware River delta and Japan in the 16th to 18th centuries. Rather than presuppositions or effects, borders here act as the objects of study. Indeed, ‘rather than being determined by treaties or military confrontations’ they represent ‘the end result of multiple activities by a plethora of agents’ whose actions ‘defined the territories of their communities and state’ (Herzog, 2015). That process was potentially particularly strong in moments of global shifts. For the modern era, the experience of globalisation ‘actually created a demand for the use of modern tools of spatial abstraction’ as a means for delineating borders (Branch, 2014; see also Massey, 2007). However, the same strategy of border-making might have been used with equally, or even more, dramatic results in premodern global entanglements. Furthermore, while we can understand these spaces as interlocutors between distinct networks on either side of the border, the power balance in these contacts could be dramatically asymmetric, and as a result either strongly privilege or hamper European and non-European imperial ambitions.  An added appeal of the focus on the early modern period is the opportunity to combine border making across maritime and land-based spheres, including both long land borders as well as relatively distant port cities (Readman, Radding & Bryant, 2014; Wilson & Hastings, 2012). Specifically, this panel will discuss the potential effect that being on the border, being ascribed a borderland position, or creating a border, had on migration flows, commercial activity and political developments.  During these historical moments of border changing, the what was the experience of being on the edge, or being put on the edge in regions where, and at times when, imperial and state authority were in flux?