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Concept Note

In popular imagination, India’s Northeast continues to be regarded as peripheral and remote. Marked by a political culture of violence, the region appears to be characterised by economic stagnation and social conservatism. Recent social scientific research increasingly proves such assumptions wrong. While the long international border that almost entirely encircles India’s Northeast suggests enclosure, its people are progressively more mobile. And while the region already has a long history of connectivity to international ‘markets’, more and more resources open up for commercial exploitation. Moreover, planned and new spatial linkages, which have long been hindered by animosity between the various states in the region, carry the promise of new connectivities.

This conference focuses in particular on ‘flows’ of people, goods and ideas, and how these combine, strengthen or obstruct one another. Northeast India is increasingly emerging as a ‘resource frontier’, that is, a provider of resources newly ‘disengaged’ from its local ownership and made available to global markets (Tsing 2003). New resource ‘chains’ are developing, extending the trajectories that channel investment, labour, profits and consumption. These transform and redefine environmental, economic and developmental interests. Resource mobilization transforms spaces, and the relationships that people maintain to these. It results in economic gain for some, often combined with the deprivation of (many) others. Northeast India has historically and politically come to constitute a region, yet an exploration of its human mobility, resource flows, and spatial linkages forces us to look across borders as well (Van Schendel 2002). This conference intends to ‘localise’ Northeast India amidst the processes outlined above.