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What can be learnt about affinity and alterity by considering how villagers and border troops collectively live in remote and often dangerous locations? Situating this question along South Asia’s longest international boundary, the India-Bangladesh border, I show how reciprocal webs of exchange and conviviality brought Garo matrilineal lineage and Christian religiosity into relationship with state control and border rule. The exchange of valued domestic objects and the broader set of political relationships that surrounded them probe the border’s changing role in mitigating difference and danger. The reciprocity among givers and receivers that these convivial exchanges establish dwell simultaneously in intimate, spiritual, and material worlds. I show how recent border infrastructures disrupt prior affinities, dis-embedding troops from their immediate rural environment and cutting off lively streams of trans-border sociality.
Malini Sur is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society and teaches anthropology at Western Sydney University. Her research addresses three lines of inquiry – borders, mobility, and environment. The first examines border infrastructures, transnational flows, and citizenship. A second line of inquiry explores the relationship that mobility has to urban space, and specifically, with regard to bicycling and construction sites. Finally, she examines the afterlives of natural disasters, air pollution and climate change. As an anthropologist, she researches these themes historically and visually, and has conducted fieldwork in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe.
Malini’s publications have appeared in academic journals like Comparative Studies in Society and History, HAU, Mobilities, and The Economic and Political Weekly. She has co-edited a collection of essays entitled Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities: Ethnographies of Human Mobility in Asia (Amsterdam University Press, 2012).