Students and Faculty in 360° Course Cluster 'Borderlands' Visit Yunnan Province

November 11, 2019 By Gabriela Capone '22

Students in the  360° course cluster "Borderlands" this semester have been studying the experiences, interactions, and life in borderlands. They have focused on culture, power, ethnicity, human-environmental interactions, and (trans)nationalism. The cluster consists of three courses in Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Environmental Studies.

Over fall break, students took their exploration beyond the classroom, visiting field sites on the Southwest Silk Road, studying the Tea-Horse trading route, Shangri-La, and Xishuangbanna.

“This cluster gave me the foundation I needed to move forward at Bryn Mawr with a greater sense of academic purpose," says Avery Matteo '22.

Avery is enrolled in the 360° and contributes to the 360° Program Instagram as a social media intern. Avery describes her experience as positive and rewarding, and appreciates the extra effort her professors put in to make each course well-rounded and engaging. She says that she hopes this cluster will be offered again so other students may experience all that she has.

During their trip to China, the cluster had the opportunity to meet students of the Naxi Embroidery Institute, visit Songzanlin Buddhist Temple in Shangri-La, speak with a Tibetan Buddhist monk, visit the Xishuangbanna Primitive Forest Park, and tour the Pu'er Sunwah Tea Company. Meeting with people directly involved with what students have been studying in the classroom allowed the students to gain a better understanding of borderlands and their inhabitants.  


Borderlands Course Descriptions:

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.

The Environment on China's Borderlands:
This seminar 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.

Plants and People:
This course is a multidisciplinary approach to the coevolution and co-domestication of plants and humans. 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.


For more information about upcoming 360° course clusters, visit the program page.

Department of Anthropology

Bi-College Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Bi-College Department of Environmental Studies

Tagged as