The study of boundaries is dangerous for the scholar, because it is thoroughly charged with political passions and entirely encumbered with after-thoughts. The people are too interested in the issue when they speak of boundaries to speak with detachment: the failing is permanent! (Siegfried, in Ancel, in Prescott, 1978: 13)
It is not only dangerous it is also extremely difficult to conduct research on boundaries, both theoretically and practically, due to methodological disadvantages and intermix and overlapping of many other concepts such as statehood, nationalism, culture, ethnicity, territory and security.
Various scholars (see for instance, Hastings and Wilson 1999, Prescott 1978, Anderson 1996, 2001) repeatedly report about lack of research on boundary studies. The boundary as a concept has not been researched profoundly. It was rarely a focus of study, but merely means to explore other issues like statehood, nationalism, etc… Furthermore, the boundary itself is very much commonsensical, taken for granted and rarely questioned. Usually scholars writing on borders, warn their readers about sensitivity of the matter. There are many new faces, and aspects of border one has to be confronted with. Anderson (1996:1) notes that examining of the issue of borders “raises crucial, often dramatic, questions concerning citizenship, identity, political loyalty, exclusion, inclusion and of the ends of the state”.
Prescott suggests that “the danger of subjectivity is greater in political geography than in any other branch of the subject” (Prescott 1978: 13). “The present century has seen how subjective studies in political geography can be perverted to serve political arguments.” Prescott is aware of these difficulties and is grateful that he wrote his book “at a time when the passions generated by the Second World War have disappeared” (Prescott 1978:13). He notes that “this advantage was denied to authors such as Holdich, Haushofer and Ancel” (Prescott, 1978:13).
The larger part of literature body on boundaries was written before, during or after the world wars, which have heavily influenced on the way borders have been perceived, represented and discussed. Even now more than often boundaries are discussed mainly when there is a conflict or a threat to security. One can come across with terms for boundary in military context more often than in any other, apart from disputes of various sorts, for instance territorial disputes, ethnic conflicts, water disputes and so forth. Borders are called to be territorial in their nature (see for instance Anderson 1996; Prescott 1978) I think borders are very much military or policed by their nature still in many parts of the world including Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan, one of the most policed state in the region).
The boundary studies do not have a long methodological or academic tradition, mainly due to the fact that academia has only recently commenced investigating the field and because the boundaries are a fairly recent phenomenon. This sphere of research was under absolute monopoly of state and the military for quite a long time, and was long seen as a security issue and was of high confidentiality.
As Anderson notes psychological implications of discussions about borders, arising patriotic feelings as well as methodological problems make it a hard task for a scholar to conduct a coherent research on boundaries. Particularly boundaries of former Soviet states are especially complex and highly policed all around the post-Soviet area, where a scholar is not welcomed at all, and information sharing can be seen as spying.
Boundary studies is the area of studies where one has to be confronted with many issues and many concepts from various disciplines. There are various concepts necessary to understand before understanding borders. One can conduct research on boundaries and territoriality and territorial dimensions of boundaries, one can look into cultural dimensions of boundaries, political, geographical, national, security and boundaries, boundaries and migration… etc. All these aspects make it difficult to grasp the multilayeredness of the boundary and border areas.
Besides, physical barriers make it sometimes impossible to approach the borderland and conduct an anthropological research. Especially borders of former Soviet Union and new Independencies are very policed, disputed and militarized.