Aarhus University Seal

Michael Eilenberg


Associate Professor, PhD

Primary affiliation

Michael Eilenberg

Areas of expertise

  • Anthropology
  • Development Studies
  • Political Ecology
  • Environmental History

Contact information

Telephone number
Email address


I am Associate Professor in Human Security and Anthropology at School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. My primary research interests’ center on issues of state formation, citizenship, agrarian expansion and environmental politics in frontier settings. In particular I investigate state-society dynamics in borderland regions of Southeast Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. Within this research frame, I have been dealing with different transnational processes such as illicit cross-border trade, labour migration, land grabs and biosecurity.

My studies are based on extended fieldwork in both Indonesia, Malaysia, Tanzania, USA and Denmark and archival studies in British and Dutch archives. I have more than 20 years research experience on issues of state formation in Southeast Asia alone including a total of 40 month of fieldwork in the region. Additional experience includes international research networking, organization of workshops, internships within international development NGOs and public education and supervision at institutions of higher learning in Denmark, Indonesia, Malaysia and Tanzania.

For additional information please visit my personal webpage: www.eilenberg.dk and project webpages: Settler Colonial Beasts, Fencing the Feral and RISEZAsia or the Human Security Community site and the Aarhus Centre for Conflict Management (Aarcon).



  • Associate Professor, Aarhus University (2014-present).
  • Assistant Professor, Aarhus University (2010-2014).
  • Coordinator of the Master's Program in Human Security & International Coordinator (2013-2018)
  • From 2011 to 2012 I was a Visiting Professor at Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto associated with the research cluster "Producing Wealth and Poverty in Indonesia's New Rural Economies" headed by Professor Tania Murray Li.
  • In 2013 I was a Visiting Scholar at Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley associated with the "ESPM Land Lab" headed by Professor Nancy Peluso.
  • From 2018 to 2019 I was a Visiting Professor at Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen associated with the Rule and Rupture Programme headed by Professor Christian Lund.


Research projects

  • 2023-2026: Project leader of ‘Settler Colonial Beasts’ Funded by Aarhus University Research Foundation - AUFF.
  • 2021-2024: Project leader of ‘Fencing the Feral - Biosecurity and the Invasive Other in the Danish-German Borderlands’ funded by the Danish Research Council.
  • 2017-2021: Project participant in ‘ANTHUSIA'. Directed by Lotte Meniert, AU (16 PhDs). Funded by a Grant from the European Commission Horizon 2020, Marie Curie.
  • 2016-2020: Project leader of ‘The Rise of Special Economic Zones in Asian borderlands’. Funded by Aarhus University Research Foundation - AUFF.
  • 2016-2020: Project participant in ‘Rule and Rupture.' Directed by Christian Lund, IFRO. Funded by the European Research Council - ERC.
  • 2014-2019: Project participant in ‘Science and Power in Participatory Forestry’. Directed by Jens Friis Lund, IFRO. Funded by the Danish Research Council for Development Research.
  • 2010-2014: Project leader of ‘Agrarian Expansion and the Politics of Territoriality on the Indonesian-Malaysian Frontier’. Funded by the Danish Research Council.
  • 2010-2012: Project co-lead (with Steffen Dalsgaard). ‘Co2 Economy: Global and Local Negotiations over the Value of Forest’. Funded by WWF/Novozymes.
  • 2012-2014: Project leader of ‘Climate Politics and Carbon Economy’. Funded by Aarhus University Research Foundation - AUFF.



  • 2012-present: Main supervisor of  50+ graduate students (doing field research, writing field reports and master theses).
  • 2013-present: Main Supervisor of 5 PhD students, co-supervisor of 7 PhD students.
  • 2017-present: Supervisor of 2 post doc researchers


Graduate Advising

I advise graduate students that work in the intersection between Anthropology and Development Studies. I am particularly interested in students whose work is on political borders, resource frontiers, land rights, sovereignty, and state formation. My primary regional expertise is in Southeast Asia, however, I am willing to take on students with similar thematic interests irrespective of their regional focus. Please send me an informal email describing your potential research interests if you are considering applying to our PhD programme.


I am currently working on

  • A book on biosecurity governance and fencing (with Annika Pohl Harrison)
  • A chapter on biosecurity and fencing in the Danish–German borderlands (with Annika Pohl Harrison)
  • A chapter about biopolitics and strategies of wild pig eradication (with Jason Cons)
  • An article on value, food, and alien invasive species (with Jason Cons)
  • A book on feral pigs in Texas (with Jason Cons)
  • An article about roads and state formation in Indonesia


Journal articles


Development Zones in Asian Borderlands

Co-Edited with Mona Chettri. Published by the Asian Borderland Series, Amsterdam University Press 2021.

Development Zones in Asian Borderlands discuss how, the nexus between global capital flows, changing economic policies, infrastructural connectivity, migration and aspirations for modernity are rapidly transforming borderlands across Asia. From remote, peripheral backyards to front-yards of economic development and state-building, Asian borderlands are increasingly becoming the ‘face of the nation’ as a result of ‘Development Zones’. (Link to authors version of manuscript).

Simultaneously wide-ranging and focused, Development Zones in Asian Borderlands traces the transformation of borderlands in South and Southeast Asia into a diverse array of official, de facto, and informal development zones. The empirically rich and absorbing collection provides a compelling conceptual framework for such zones, and is particularly strong in its focus on their temporalities and affective qualities. It will be of great value for borderland and infrastructural studies, as well as for scholars of contemporary Asia. - Emily T. Yeh, Professor of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder

Theoretically ambitious and empirically rich, this volume shows how development zones are much more than sites of capital accumulation. As places of economic, spatial and military experimentation, of imagination and desire, they are also critical sites for interrogating how life itself is ‘zoned’ in contexts of shifting geopolitical fortunes. An original and important contribution to our understanding of borderland lives in South and Southeast Asia. - Madeleine Reeves, author of Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia

Frontier Assemblages: The Emergent Politics of Resource Frontiers in Asia

Co-Edited with Jason Cons. Published by the Antipode Book Series, Wiley-Blackwell 2019.

Frontier Assemblages offers a new framework for thinking about resource frontiers in the contemporary moment. Over the past several decades, there have been radical transformations in marginal spaces throughout Asia. Millions of acres of land have been rapidly converted to sites of large-scale monoculture production, mining, and other forms of resource extraction. At the same time, alternative marginal spaces are also being reframed as new kinds of productive sites—zones slated for massive infrastructural projects, spaces of capital extraction through privatized health care, habitats of ecological reclamation and sustainability, speculative locations for carbon storage, and areas where environmental degradation is itself a source of productive power. See Chapter Abstracts here.

Cons and Eilenberg’s Frontier Assemblages is a collection of richly textured essays tracing the incorporation of remote areas into new territorial formations in the context of Asia. Framed through the notion of assemblage, the collection speaks to the complexity, lability, and nonlinearity of these transformative processes. It will be essential reading for border scholars and specialists of Asia alike. — Franck Billé, University of California, Berkeley.

This fascinating collection sheds new light on the varied dynamics of frontier-making across a diverse and sometimes surprising set of spaces in Asia. It is especially strong on frontier temporalities of anticipation and ruin, and on the productive (not just extractive) work of resource frontiers. Frontier Assemblages is highly stimulating, analytically rich, and not to be missed. — Derek Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University.