The Borderlands Project


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I am currently in the process of finishing the book.

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Lucy V. Cleland

Kneerim & Williams



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Sometimes these narratives keep watch over absent meaning. —Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster

And each lost thing—a memory of what has never been. —Auster, Effigies

The book Borderlands is my 9,000-mile journey through India’s borders to better understand the human dimension of political borders. It is a travelogue chronicling stories along India’s border with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma. Part visual anthropology and partly an attempt at understanding the Indian state, and the fringes it governs. Borderlands began in 2012 when I was a graduate student at Yale. I  spent two years researching and documenting stories along the contentious Durand Line. I travelled extensively through the Afghan border, both independently and embedded with the US Military – 172 infantry brigade, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan conducting research on insurgency and counter-insurgency practices in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

My time at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border became the impetus to study margins and focus on the everyday life and struggle in India’s borderlands, and how it enables a study of local histories, which have been forgotten, suppressed or subsumed by national history. It is here that the nation-state ends, and we have the possibility of interrogating how these communities imagine themselves politically. The study of the margin has immense narrative potential, with their histories of violence, repression and resistance. The borderlands are also the laboratories for social change; there is no place in the nation state where the contradictions and fragmentation of citizenship and identity could be clearer.

{ Special Thanks: Melissa Nicolardi gave this video its poetic soul and translated my words and ideas into a visual symphony. Through this process, I got to know her as a passionate filmmaker, a dedicated educator and a wonderful friend.

The haunting soundtrack was made possible by Yasir and Jawad, the eclectic Pakistani musical ensemble, who combine traditional Pashto poetry with hard rock. Their music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. Special thanks to Jawad Iqbal of the ensemble for his music, friendship and always calling me “lady”. }

Carnegie Council for International Affairs, New York

Interview: The Beginnings of the Borderlands Project

Getting around India’s Borderlands

Interview with Michael Busch about the Borderlands Project


What it’s like on a 9,000 mile journey along India’s borders – Interview with The PRI World/ BBC.



Fieldnotes from Kashmir; Repression and Resistance