Alessandro Rippa


Alessandro completed his doctorate in Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen with a thesis on the Karakoram Highway and China-Pakistan cross-border interactions. He conducted extensive fieldwork in both China and Pakistan since 2009, and often writes commentary articles for various publications.


Academic Biography

since 2015
Postdoc ERC Starting Grant Project Remoteness & Connectivity: Highland Asia in the World.
Visiting Fellow, Competence Network Crossroads Asia, Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich.
Ph.D. Student at University of Aberdeen, Department of Anthropology. Thesis: Across the Khunjerab Pass: A Rhizomatic Ethnography Along the Karakoram Highway, between Xinjiang (China) and Pakistan
Editor at The South Asianist (
M.Res in Social Anthropology (with distinction), University of Aberdeen.
MA in Religious Studies/Religions of China (summa cum laude), University of Padova and Cà Foscari University of Venice.

Awards and Grants

Crossroads Asia Research Fellowship (4 months).
Research Project Award under "Religion and Politics in the Contemporary World", The College of Arts and Social Sciences Graduate School, University of Aberdeen (36 months).



October 2017
“Illicit Passages (tongdao): a tale of three border crossings”, talk at the On Edge: China’s Frontiers in a Time of Change – workshop. Kadersteg, Switzerland. October 12-14.
August 2017
“Roads to Development: Socialist New Villages and petty cross-border trade in the Dulong Valley”, talk at the Tajik Academy of Science. Khorog, Tajikistan. August 5.
March 2017
“Curating the Borderlands: State, Market and Heritage Making in China”, talk at the Tibet Himalaya Initiative, University of Colorado Boulder, 21 March 2017, Boulder, CO.
March 2017
“Zomia 2.0: Casino towns and the "China effect" in Myanmar and Laos”, presented at the Université du Québec à Montréal, 16 March 2017, Montréal.
March 2017
“Curating the borderlands: state, market and heritage making in China”, presented at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, 7 March 2017, New York.
December 2016
"Roads to Development: Socialist New Villages and petty cross-border trade in the Dulong valley", presented at the Dynamic Borderlands – Livelihoods, Communities and Flows: 5th International Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network (ABRN), 12–14 December, Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu, Nepal.
August 2016
“Nodes of Development and China’s One Belt One Road: A View from Tengchong”, presented at the Silk Road and Urban Development in Western China workshop, 26-27 August 2016, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China.
August 2016
“Remoteness and Connectivity: A Project Presentation”, presented at the Institute of New Rural Development, Yunnan Agricultural University, 22 August 2016, Kunming, China.
July 2016
“Zomia 2.0: Casino Towns and the “China Effect” in Myanmar and Laos”, presented at the EASA Biennial Conference, 20-23 July 2016, Milano, Italy.
March 2016
“Old routes, new roads: Proximity across the China Pakistan border”, presented at the AAG Annual Meeting, 28 March – 2 April 2016, San Francisco, USA.
Dec 2015
"Cross-border trade and "the market" between Xinjiang (China) and Pakistan", presented at the Cross-Border Exchanges and the Shadow Economy Workshop, 14-15 December 2015, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Dec 2014
"The Rhizomatic State: An Ethnographic Approach to the China-Pakistan Border", presented at the 4th Conference of the Asian Borderlands Research Network: Activated border - Re-openings, Ruptures and Relationships, 8-10 December 2014, Hong Kong.
June 2014
"Fragments of the state: a rhizomatic ethnography of the Karakoram Highway between China and Pakistan", presented at the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth Decennial Conference, 19-22 June 2014, Edinburgh.
March 2014
"Anthropology of Roads, Ethnography of the State(s): A Study of the Karakoram Highway between Xinjiang (China) and Pakistan", presented at the workshop Transregional Crossroads of Social Interaction: The Shifting Meaning of Regional Belonging in South and Central Asia, 21 March 2014, Berlin.
February 2013
"Subjectivity, Diaspora and the State: Traders and Goods on the Karakoram Highway", presented at the workshop Roads, Culture and History: Inter-disciplinary Crossroads, 2 February 2013, London.
June 2012
"Trade, Diaspora and the State on the Karakoram Highway: The Case of the Uyghurs of Pakistan", Toyo Bunko (The Oriental Library), Tokyo, 23 June 2012.


Peer-Reviewed Papers

“Cross-Border Trade and “the Market” between Xinjiang (China) and Pakistan.” Journal of Contemporary Asia (accepted for publication).
(with Yi Yang) “The Amber Road: Cross-border trade and the regulation of the Burmite market in Tengchong, Yunnan.” TRaNS: Trans –Regional and –National Studies of Southeast Asia 5(2): 243-267.
"Centralising Peripheries: The Belt and Road Initiative and its role in the Development of the Chinese Borderlands." International Journal of Business Anthropology 7(1): 1-21.
(with Martin Saxer) "Mong La: Business as usual in the China-Myanmar borderlands". Cross-Currents E-Journal (No. 19).
"Oltre il Khunjerab: Violenza, Confini e rappresentazioni dello Stato tra Xinjiang (Cina) e Pakistan". Quaderni Asiatici 113: 83-108.
"Re-Writing Mythology in Xinjiang: the Case of the Queen Mother of the West, King Mu, and the Kunlun". The China Journal 71: 43-64.

Working Papers

"From Uyghurs to Kashgaris (and back?): Migration an cross-border interactions between Xinjiang and Pakistan". Crossroads Asia Working Paper Series 23.


Cuore dell'Eurasia: Il Xinjiang Dalla Preistoria al 1949. Milano: Mimesis Edizioni.

Edited Volumes

2018 (forthcoming)
with Horstmann, A.; and M. Saxer. Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands. New York and London: Routledge.

Book Chapters

2018 (forthcoming)
“Old Routes, New Roads: Proximity across the China-Pakistan Border.” In: Horstmann, A; Rippa, A.; and M. Saxer (edited by), Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands.
2018 (forthcoming)
with Saxer, M.; and A. Horstmann. “Asian Borderlands in a Global Perspective.” In: Horstmann, A; Rippa, A.; and M. Saxer (edited by), Routledge Handbook of Asian Borderlands.

Book Review

(With Rest, Matthäus, Gupta, Radhika, Joniak-Lüthy, Agnieszka, Maertens, Carolin, Müller, Juliane, Rail, Lisa and Saxer, Martin) "On Roads: A Review Letter." Dialogues, Cultural Anthropology website, October 4, 2016.
“The China-Pakistan Relation (a review of Andrew Small’s The China-Pakistan Axis)”, China-US Focus.
“Book Review: Filomeno Lopes, Folosofia intorno al fuoco: Il pensiero africano contemporaneo, tra memoria e future”. Simplegadi, Anno 12, No. 28/11: 195-197.

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