The Newsletter 59 Spring 2012

Making sense of the state from its margins

Olivia Swift

Noboru Ishikawa. 2010. Between Frontiers: Nation and Identity in a Southeast Asian Borderland. National University of Singapore Press. 275 pages, ISBN: 978877694 0508 (paperback)

As a child growing up in Australia, I was made aware of the country’s frontiers from an early age. The shape of Australia’s landmass was printed on the covers of my schoolbooks and as I rubbed out pencil marks, I eroded the coastline of my Australia-shaped eraser.
As with many young nation-states, the use of representations of Australia’s land-based territory is part of the country’s nationalist project that fosters a sense of belonging among its people. At the same time, this naturalising of clearly defined state boundaries disguises the porous nature of those boundaries, their significance for national development and the experience of the people residing along them.

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