A staple of postwar academic writing, “nationalism” is a contentious and often unanalyzed abstraction. It is generally treated as something “imagined,” “fashioned,” and “disseminated,” as an idea located in the mind, in printed matter, on maps, in symbols such as flags and anthems, and in collective memory. Between Frontiers restores the nation to the social field from which it has been abstracted by looking at how the concept shapes the existence of people in border zones, where they live between nations.
Noboru Ishikawa grounds his discussion of border zones in materials gathered during two years of archival research and fieldwork relating to the boundary that separates Malaysian from Indonesian territory in western Borneo. His book considers how the state maintains its national space and how people strategically situate themselves by their community, nation, and ethnic group designated as national territory. Examining these issues in the context of concrete circumstances, where a village boundary coincides with a national border, allows him to delineate the dialectical relationship between nation-state and borderland society both as history and as process. Scholars across the humanities and social sciences will learn from this masterful linking of history and ethnography, and of macro and micro perspectives.