360°: Borderlands

Throughout human history, diverse peoples have been interacting with each other and their environment on the borderlands--places shaped by encounters across difference, with significant implications on culture and livelihood.  This cluster focuses on the core issue of borderland encounters, and addresses a variety of common themes such as the concept and nature of borderlands, cultural exchange, power relations, ethnic experience, human- environmental interactions, and (trans)nationalism. The field study will explore the borderlands along China’s Southwest Silk Road through Yunnan province, which encompass diverse ethnic cultures such as Tibetans and Thai in Shangri-La and Xishuangbanna and borderlands environmental experiences along the Tea-Horse trading route.

This cluster has been made possible by generous support from the Ruth Rasch-Shen ’57 Memorial Fund and grants from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Borderlands Courses

Anthropology 339: Migrants, Refugees, and Life Across Borders
Borders are often taken for granted as natural divisions in the world, but they are actually the products of political, historical, and social processes. Border crossing is often framed as an aberration or even a crisis, but people have moved for as long as humans have existed. Focusing on specific instances of mobility in their sociocultural contexts, this course will investigate the contradictions of moving and belonging across borders from the viewpoints of people variously categorized as migrants and refugees, giving particular attention to how these categories take on meaning in everyday life. From here, we will consider how broader issues of state power and sovereignty, belonging and exclusion, and global inequality intersect with the movements of people around the world. Taught by Susanna Fioratta.

East Asian Languages and Cultures 353: The Environment on China's Borderlands
This seminar, taught by Yonglin Jiang, explores environmental issues on China’s borderlands from a historical perspective.  In China, as in many other countries, both the environment and the borderland have played special roles in shaping and constructing the country’s identity.  This course will address such broad questions as how the environment has defined the human borderland experiences, how the human activities changed the environment on the borderlands, and how human values affected the environmental changes on the borderlands.  The borderland regions under discussion include Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and the southwestern ethnic areas, which are all important in defining what China is and who the Chinese are.

Environmental Studies 118: Plants and People
This course is a multidisciplinary approach to the coevolution and co-domestication of plants and humans. Taught by Jonathan Wilson, this course looks critically at plant evolution, physiology, biochemistry, and growth and their consequent effects on human society. Following an overview of plant biology, physiology, and ecology, we will spend each week investigating plant biology through the lens of particular plants, from cacao to apples. Through an investigation of plant domestication, this course studies how plants and people have crossed borders to create both biodiversity and monocultures on a global scale.


Contact Us


Sarah Theobald, 360° Coordinator
Taylor 302 B
101 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010
Phone: 610-526-5509