Universität Wien FIND

240122 VO+UE VM6 / VM5 - Historical and contemporary perspectives on frontiers in Asia and the Americas (2021W)

Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 25 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

UPDATE 19.11.2021; Due to the current Covid regulations the class will continue online (see ZOOM link on Moodle)

Monday 04.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 11.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 18.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 25.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 08.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 15.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 22.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 29.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 06.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 13.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 10.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 17.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 24.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01
Monday 31.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Seminarraum 7, Kolingasse 14-16, OG01


Aims, contents and method of the course

Taking an interdisciplinary perspective, this course will examine the historical role as well as the contemporary function of peripheral areas - also known as “frontiers” - in the Americas and Asia. Despite its controversial history as a legitimizing narrative for European settler colonialism, a review of contemporary literature shows the continuing relevance of the frontier as a conceptual framework. The current academic concern with frontiers has been reinforced amongst others by a rush on natural resources and land in the early 2000s as well as debate around failed states and security following the ‘global war on terrorism’.
Peripheral areas are still regarded by states and the private sector as sources of cheap resources and ‘free’ land. This land is also sought after by migrants looking for new opportunities often causing conflict between newcomers and (indigenous) populations. Frontiers are also perceived by states as security threats inhabited by ethnic groups that often differ from the majority population and challenge the central state. Also, in recent years ‘frontiers’ made global headlines, to name just a few examples: In Brazil, a populist right-wing government openly promotes the exploitation of the remaining Amazon Forest, resulting in an increased deforestation and displacement of indigenous peoples. In China’s Northwest frontier the state seeks to forcibly assimilate Muslim minorities into the mainstream population through re-education camps, prompting global criticism. At the same time Canada examines its legacy of residential schools in which hundreds of indigenous children died tragic deaths.
Reflecting the global diversity, this course will present multiple perspectives on frontiers with empirical case studies from Asia and the Americas, covering following topics (amongst others):

- History of the frontier concept and contemporary theoretical approaches
- Frontier governmentality and comparative historical perspective on imperial frontiers
- Frontiers and the making of ‘state-space’
- Resource and land frontiers
- Gender frontiers
- Cultural frontiers and frontier imaginaries
- Settler frontiers and frontier violence
- Frontiers and indigenous resistance

The course will provide an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with multiple (disciplinary) perspectives on frontiers in different regional contexts. Students will practice to critically reflect and discuss contemporary theoretical concepts related to frontiers. In weekly reading assignments students will read up-to-date academic literature and discuss them in class.

The course is divided into two parts. In the first part (VO) the lecturer together with the students will elaborate on the theoretical framework and concepts that are central to the topic. In addition, invited guest lecturers with extensive research experience in frontier regions will provide empirical case studies and further theoretical input.

In the second part (UE) students themselves will independently research a topic (chosen from a list of topics) for presentation in class and write a final term- paper connecting the theoretical discussions with the selected case studies.

Assessment and permitted materials

The following requirements must be fulfilled to successfully conclude the course:

- Regular participation and active involvement in discussion (physically in class or online, depending on the COVID-19 situation)
- Reading of academic papers and related work assignments (reading notes or online tasks)
- Own research and presentation of topic in class (or online depending on the COVID-19 situation)
- Final term paper (ca. 10-15 pages)

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

The grading is based on following achievements:

• Active participation in class (reading and discussion of literature) (20%)
• Work assignments related to core reading material (20%)
• Independent research of topic and presentation in class (30 %)
• Proseminar paper (10-15 pages) (30%)

All assignments have to be passed individually in order to pass the course.

Examination topics

The examination will encompass the work items as outlined in the course requirements.

Reading list

The literature will include (parts of) the following references (subject to modifications):

Brown, K. M. (2018). Gender Frontiers and Early Encounters (E. Hartigan-O’Connor & L. G. Materson, Eds.; Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.
Cunha, D. (2019). Bolsonarism and “Frontier Capitalism.” The Brooklyn Rail.
Geiger D. (2008). Introduction: States, Settlers and Indigenous Communities. In: Frontier Encounters: Indigenous Communities and Settlers in Asia and Latin America.
Geiger, D. (2009). Turner in the Tropics: The Frontier Concept Revisited. Universität Luzern.
Hine, R. V., & Faragher, J. M. (2007). Frontiers: A short history of the American West (Abridged ed). Yale Univ. Press.
Hopkins, B. D. (2020). Ruling the savage periphery: Frontier governance and the making of the modern world. Harvard University Press.
Kröger, M. (2012). The Expansion of Industrial Tree Plantations and Dispossession in Brazil. Development and Change, 43(4), 947–973.
Li, T. M. (2014). Land’s End Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier. Duke University Press.
Ridge, M. (1991). The Life of an Idea: The Significance of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis. Montana: The Magazine of Western History, 41(1).
Roberts, S. R. (2020). The war on the Uyghurs: China’s internal campaign against a Muslim minority. Princeton University Press.
Schetter, C., Müller-Koné, M. (2021) Frontiers’ violence: The interplay of state of exception, frontier habitus, and organized violence, Political Geography, Volume 87
Scott, J. C. (2009). The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press.
Turner, F. J. (1932). The significance of the frontier in American history, (First Edition, First Printing edition). H. Holt and Company (14 p.)
Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8(4), 387–409. (22 p)

Association in the course directory

VM6 / VM5;

Last modified: Fr 19.11.2021 19:09