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Graduate Lab & Colloquium on Borderlands
Manan Ahmed

Borderlands: Towards a Spatial History of Empire

###MANAN AHMED ###TUESDAYS ###9AM TO 10:50 AM ###SPRING 2015


Course Bio:

What is the violence of a line drawn upon a map? or on a terrain? How are people produced by such mapping? What anxieties drive the imperial cartographic impulse? What pressures does terra nullis exert in situ? What do the bodies produced in mapped territories look like? What bodies exist in unmapped terrains? What is the relationship between wonder, amazement, and control, annihilation? Where do we locate ourselves as scholars reading these maps? What maps are visible when we visit the landscape? How are narratives produced against maps? How are histories made visible in terrain?

These questions will guide us as we traverse a theoretical terrain of writings on space and territory, and situate ourselves in specific historical moments of imperial mastery over space. We will cover a lot of ground temporally (focusing largely on mid-17th and mid-18th c) but our geographic focus will be continental America and sub-continental India. As part of the exercise to think spatially about power and violence, the seminar will have a Geographic Informational Science (G.I.S.) Lab attached to it. We will learn the techniques and tools of making maps, and our exercises will allow us to create our own arguments about thinking spatially. No prior technical skills are needed for this course - except for the skill of close-reading.


  • 20% - Blog/Postings/Participation - on Piazza
  • 20% - Leading discussion in Class
  • 10% - Paired-Response Papers
  • 30% - GIS Project
  • 10% - GIS Project Documentation
  • 10% - Visual Essay

We aim to focus on digital humanities and cooperative work in this seminar, and our assessment will reflect that. The majority of written work will be done in a forum/discussion space where you will be writing for your peers. The effort here will be to write quickly; to write clearly; and to write with the intention of illuminating the discussed text. You will also co-write and co-present to give you a sense of how cooperative work can integrate intellectual property as well as collective clarity. Our digital work will also be collective, though, we will produce individual argumentative maps.


  • Google Earth ( (both PC and Mac; note that this will take a while to install because it's a big file.). Start with this lesson

  • QGIS (both PC and Mac). Start with this instructions page at Programming Historian. For QGIS, you need to have some plug-ins installed as well. Coordinate, Georeferencer, OpenLayers, and Points2One.

  • Grass GIS & video tutorials

Assigned Readings and Viewings

Order to be shuffled/Week Assignments to be Assigned.


  1. Stage Coach (1939). dir John Ford
  2. The Fall (2006). dir Tarsem


  1. Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003) Photo Collection at Pitt River Museum (online).



  1. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (London: Wiley, 1992)
  2. Febvre, Lucien. “Frontière: The Word and the Concept” A New Kind of History and Other Essays. ed. Peter Burke. (NY: Harper & Row, 1973: 208-218).
  3. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité (October, 1984).
  4. Michel Foucault, “Questions on Geography,” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977. (NY: Pantheon, 63–77).
  5. Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, "From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History," American Historical Review 104:3 (June 1999), 814-841.
  6. Doreen Massey, “Spatialising the history of modernity” For Space (NY: Sage Publication, 2005)

(Case Study/Theory)

  1. Matthew H. Edney, Mapping an Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989)
  2. James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010)
  3. Manan Ahmed, "Adam's Mirror" EPW
  4. Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (1893)
  5. Michael Baud and Willem Van Schendel, “Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands,” Journal of World History 8:2 (Fall 1997): 211-242

(Case Study/Imperial Britain)

  1. George Nathaniel Curzon, Frontiers: [lecture] delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, November 2, 1907 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976) 1-58.
  2. Issac, Benjamin (1988). "The Meaning of the Terms Limes and Limitanei ." Journal of Roman Studies 78:125-147

(Case Study/Early-Modern & Medieval Islam)

  1. Ali Anooshahr. The Ghazi Sultans and the Frontiers of Islam: A Comparative Study of the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods (New York: Routledge, 2009)
  2. Ralph W. Brauer. Boundaries and Frontiers in Medieval Muslim Geography, (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1995)
  3. Colin Heywood, "The Frontier in Ottoman History: Old Ideas and New Myths," in Daniel Power and Naomi Standen, Frontiers in Question: Eurasian Borderlands, 700-1700 (London, 1999), 228-250.
  4. Shawkat M. Toorawa, “Waq al-Waq: Fabulous, Fabular, Indian Ocean (?) Island(s) …" Emergences v. 10, no 2, 2000.
  5. Travis Zadeh. Mapping Frontiers Across Medieval Islam: Geography, Translation, and the ‘Abbasid Empire (Berlin: Tauris, 2011): Selections

(Case Study/America)

  1. Brian DeLay, War of a Thousand Deserts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)
  2. Martha Schoolman, Abolitionist Geographies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014)
  3. Sheila McManus, The Line Which Separates (University of Nebraska Press, 2005)
  4. Pekka Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett, “On Borderlands,” Journal of American History 98:2 (Sept 2011): 338-361
  5. Karl Jacoby, “The Broad Platform of Extermination” Journal of Genocide Research 10:2 (June 2008): 249-67
  6. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, “Chinatowns and Borderlands: Inter-Asian Encounters in the Diaspora,” Modern Asian Studies 46:2 (March 2012): 425-51
  7. Daniel D. Arreola, “Chiricahua Apache Homeland in the Borderland Southwest,” Geographical Review 102:1 (January 2012): 111-31

(Case Study/India)

  1. Chitralekha Zutshi, Kashmir’s Contested Pasts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)
  2. Sana Haroon, Frontier of Faith (Hurst, 2011)
  3. Sanghamitra Misra, Becoming a Borderland: The Politics of Space and Identity in Colonial Northeastern India (Routledge, 2014)
  4. Bodhisattva Kar, ""Heads in the Naga Hills”, in Partha Chatterjee, Tapati Guha-Thakurta and Bodhisattva Kar (eds.), New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  5. Joya Chatterji, “The Fashioning of a Frontier: The Radcliffe Line and Bengal’s Border Landscape, 1947-1952,” Modern Asian Studies 33:1 (Jan 1999): 185-242.
  6. Ainslie T. Embree, "Frontiers into Boundaries: From the Traditional to the Modern State," in Realm and Region in Traditional India, ed. Richard G. Fox (Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1977): 255-280.


The following works are not required readings, but you should refer to them as you see the need. Some are foundational texts, some are critical interventions, and some exquisite.

  1. Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands-La Frontera (1987)
  2. Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (1995)
  3. Gatson Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1964)
  4. Iain Border, Barbara Penner & Jane Rendell, "Gender, Space, Architecture" (1999)
  5. Pierre Bourdieu, ""Social Space and Symbolic Power"", Sociological Theory (1989)
  6. Ernst Cassirer, "Mythic, aesthetic and theoretical space," Man and World (1969)
  7. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)
  8. Allaine Cerwonka, Native to the Nation: Disciplining Landscapes and Bodies in Australia (2004)
  9. Tim Creswell, "Place: An Introduction" (2004)
  10. Steven Feld, Keith Basso (ed), Senses of Place (1996)
  11. Tim Ingold, Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description (2011)
  12. David Harvey, Spaces of Hope (2000)
  13. Eric Hirsch and Michael O'Hanlon, The Anthropology of Place and Space (1995)
  14. Martin Heidegger, “Building, Dwelling, Thinking,” Rethinking Architecture (1997)
  15. Immanuel Kant, "On the First Ground of the Distinction of Regions in Space" (1768)
  16. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1978)
  17. Karyn Lacy, “Black Spaces, Black Places” Ethnic and Racial Studies (2004)
  18. Setha M. Low & Denise Lawrence-Zuniga, The Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture (2003)
  19. W.J.T Mitchell, Landscape and Power (1992)
  20. Andie Diane Palmer, Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse (2005)
  21. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Places (1974)
  22. Matthew Potteiger & Jamie Purington, Landscape Narratives (1998)
  23. Edward Said, “Invention, Memory, and Place” and W.J.T. Mitchell, “Holy Landscape: Israel, Palestine, and the American Wilderness” Critical Inquiry 26:2.
  24. Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea. A World-historical reflection (1942)
  25. Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989)
  26. Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977)
  27. Iris Young, Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays (1995)