A book discussion with Franck Billé and Caroline Humphrey
In this roundtable Franck Billé and Caroline Humphrey will introduce their forthcoming volume which examines the lifeways, politics, and history of the Russia-China border, one of the world’s least understood and most politically charged frontiers. Winding for 2,600 miles through rivers, swamps, and vast taiga forests, the border is a thin line of direct engagement, extraordinary contrasts, frequent tension, and occasional war between two of the world’s political giants. It separates two differing worlds. On the sparsely populated Russian side, defence is prioritized over the economy, leaving dilapidated villages slumbering amid the forests. The Chinese side is heavily settled and increasingly prosperous and dynamic. Moscow worries about the imbalance, and both governments discourage citizens from interacting. But as Billé and Humphrey show, the ordinary imperatives of daily life ensure cross-border connection endures, whatever distant authorities say. It is anticipated that discussion will consider such issues as: remoteness — relations between highly centralised metropoles and their peripheries; infrastructural atrophy — ‘anisotropic’ communication links and the conquest of distance; ‘closed’ zones of development — their privileges and those they exclude and leave behind; the move from sustainability to ruin and back again — perspectives on the ebb and flow of emptiness; the mixing of old tropes of security and secrecy with new rhetoric of state-sponsored development — how to disentangle this simultaneous dynamic of closed-ness and openness.
Moderator: Dominic Martin, University of Oxford
Caroline Humphrey, University of Cambridge
Franck Billé, University of California, Berkeley
Madeleine Reeves, University of Manchester
Alessandro Rippa, LMU Munich
Natalia Ryzhova, Palacký University Olomouc