The American humorist Robert Benchley once observed that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think that there are two kinds of people, and those who don’t. The joke has particular poignancy for the student of borderlands. As discussed in the introduction to this volume, borderlands fascinate scholars because they can be viewed in two ways: as showcases for the power of nation-states and empires to sort out territories and populations, thereby establishing exclusive control over those under their jurisdiction; and as liminal zones of cultural contact and mixing, in which local inhabitants can defy and subvert state-driven agendas. The attention given to the latter dimensions of borderland experience in recent scholarship has provided a welcome counterpoint to more teleological stories focused exclusively on the self-reinforcing dynamics of border-drawing. But we should be careful not to imagine this tension as a straightforward conflict between border-makers (agents of state power, ideological entrepreneurs, national activists) and border- subverters (locals, ordinary people, border landers). In practice, individuals, groups, and institutions have played both roles, articulating and policing some boundaries, inscribing others with new meanings, dismissing still others as meaningless or illegitimate. The following micro-level case study is intended to illustrate the complicated and dynamic interplay created by different actors simultaneously engaging a variety of boundaries: those of empires and nation- states; of religious jurisdiction and devotional practice; of linguistic usage and ethnic identification; of class and status.
|Title of host publication
|Borderlands in World History, 1700-1914
|Paul Readman, Cynthia Radding, Chad Bryant
|Place of Publication
|Number of pages
|Published - 2014