Borders before Nations: Encounters in the Akan and Dzungar Borderlands, 1450–1750

Edmond Smith, Lisa Hellman

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Abstract

This article combines the methodological approaches and insights of two scholars working in distinct regions of the early modern world, namely West Africa and Central Asia, to consider border-making outside of Europe before the nation state. Using borders to understand historical developments is not unprecedented and decades of borderland studies have shown how borders result from, and are affected by, political, emotional, economic, and social processes. The field has also shown that borders can be permeable and solid simultaneously and has offered fruitful new perspectives for historians examining the gradual consolidation of nation states. However, using the history of border-making to understand how nations were formed is a comparatively modern, and regionally limited, line of inquiry. Instead, by adopting a comparative analysis, underpinned by a common theoretical approach, this article combines the examination of two understudied early modern regions to offer an alternative approach for understanding border-making, situated in a global context. Comparisons of this nature show the potential of global history to break up categories taken for granted and open up new venues for research; in doing so, they can generate novel approaches that serve to connect diverse spaces, historiographies, and archives.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Early Modern History
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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