A proliferation of border interfaces
Relying on a case study of the Thai-Burmese border, this chapter explores the ways in which borderlands reflect spaces produced at the interface of complex assemblages of discourse, power relations, and lived experience. These borderlands are simultaneously a place of refuge, opportunity, exploitation, home, and transit for Burmese migrants who represent both a threat and the possibility of a low-wage workforce to the Thai state and local as well as multinational enterprises operating there. They are “peripheral” spaces imbued with colonial and postcolonial narratives of national identity and exclusion, neoliberal logics of global supply chains, and histories of war, resistance, and displacement. Recognizing that all these forces interact in different ways to shape lived realities, this chapter offers an analysis of the Thai-Burmese borderlands as fragmented and partial; as interfaces at which different populations experience territory, sovereignty, and governance in varying ways, encountering disparate manifestations of law and different assemblages of economic, social, and political power. The chapter begins by considering how the Thai state’s immigration policies and designation of its borders as geographic zones of productive economic power are rooted in, and yet at tension with, ideals of center and periphery which derive from Thailand’s own history of defining itself via hierarchies of exclusion. The chapter then points to the ways in which these ideals and policies translate to a heterogeneity in the regimes of order that Burmese migrants must navigate. In the final section, we discuss how this heterogeneity of orders interacts with translocal political, social, and religious networks that span the Thailand-Myanmar state boundary and play an important role in daily governance and social support.