Borders – The Future of Cooperation across Asia

From 5th to 8th October 2020, the Asia Seminar “Borders – The Future of Cooperation across Asia” took place at the St. Ludgerus Monastery in Helmstedt, located directly on the former East-West border of the then divided Germany. 19 KAAD scholarship holders, 14 of them from Asian countries, were enjoying their participation in the seminar despite all corona restrictions and appreciated to exchange ideas on a topic that most of them could combine with rich personal experience from their home countries.

Prof. Dr. Bonn Juego from the University of Jyväsylä, Finland, joined us with a lecture on “Redrawing Asia’s Borders: Between Populist Nationalisms and Competitive Capitalisms.” Coming from the Philippines himself and having dealt with the topic in its Asia-specific effects for years, he was able to fascinate his audience via zoom and initiated a lively discussion.

Borders are linked to structures of violence and inequality. They are strongly subject to technical developments. Bio-identification methods clearly facilitate the management of complex border situations and enable efficient humanitarian aid. Yet, the increasing shift away from traditional border crossing with paper checks towards complex, mechanised migration processes is not without its problems, as the reflections on “Shifting Borders” by Ayelet Shachar show. In times of a pandemic, national constitutions and associated borders are gaining increasingly more importance as a globally unavoidable fact. They contrast with the self-perception of our young, internationally oriented academics who are at home both in and around the world and yet are connected to their home countries. In the course of the seminar, the participants developed their own opinions on current border policies and practices and dealt with the question as to where responsibilities and possibilities lie for dealing with and shaping necessary demarcations.

The country-specific diversity of the topic became apparent in the participants’ presentation of their respective home country. Starting in the afternoon, the presentations continued the following day. The possibilities of cooperation were discussed in a final session. An active first step towards an intensified KAAD-internal cooperation across borders was the email list “KAAD in Asia” which will soon be introduced by the Asia Department. A visit to the Marienborn memorial site rounded off the topic impressively and was particularly inspiring due to the guided tours on site, being rich in experience. A mass followed in the evening – for many scholarship holders the first in a long time.

All in all, the seminar was a successful start to a new phase in the work of the Asia Department. We very much hope that in the course of next year, in addition to fascinating topics, cultural exchange and light-hearted get-togethers will again be part of the seminar evenings. We are grateful to all participants for their discipline and the constant balancing of a realistic scope for action in these contested times!

Esther-Maria Guggenmos