Call for papers: Critical Approaches to South Asian Studies Workshop

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The Critical Approaches to South Asian Studies (CASAS) Workshop Jan. 30 -31, 2014, will offer a forum for exploring research and methodological issues in the study of South Asia and South Asian diaspora. Building on the inaugural workshop in 2013, the 2014 CASAS at York University will once again bring together scholars for an intimate exchange on research ideas and works in progress. A principal aim of the workshop is to build relationships with colleagues and facilitate the exchange of ideas through research networks in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

In addition to academic engagement, community building and resource/ideas sharing, CASAS is also a platform for producing an interdisciplinary published work. Participants will be invited to submit full papers of the work they presented at the workshop for an edited volume that will be put together by the South Asia Research Group (SARG) at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) for publication.

The workshop will include a series of three consecutive and thematically organized panels where presenters will briefly discuss their papers (for 10-15 minutes). Presentation papers will be due at the end of December for circulation among the co-panellists and the discussant. Co-panellists are expected to have read each other’s presentation papers in advance. A discussant who is familiar with the theme and has also read the papers in advance will provide feedback and coordinate discussion between the co-panellists.

In addition to the panels, there will be two roundtable sessions on the broader themes of the workshop, an undergraduate panel, a keynote speaker and opportunities for community building.

Abstracts (maximum of 250 words) that engage with the following themes, especially those that are attentive to issues of gender, diaspora and cultural studies approaches to the themes, should be sent to by Sept. 30.

1. Borders and Nationalisms

The nation as a political, cultural and social formation is imagined, reified and contested in many ways. The borders drawn around nations are projections of these formations. The papers in this panel explore how nations and borders have been conceived, produced, politicized, contested and resisted in a range of political, economic, social and cultural contexts. Questions in this panel could include:

  • How are identities, such as those based on language, culture, ethnicity or religion, structured and co-constituted through national formations?
  • How do we conceptualize nationalisms and their antinomies: political nationalisms, ideological nationalisms, regionalism and political culture?
  • What are new and critical approaches to understanding the relation between nations, states and institutions, including issues of public policy and public response?
  • How are borders regulated and transgressed through discourses of immigration, refugees and status claims?
  • How are nations represented and contested in sites such as literature and transnational political formations?

2. Categories of Difference: Discrimination and Political Subjectivities

Categories of caste, race, ethnicity and minority, including religious or linguistic, have structured processes and experiences of discrimination and violence, yet, at the same time, they have grounded political struggles and challenged power relations. This panel will engage with these politics of naming, processes of identification, and the political and social imaginaries connected to the use of these terms in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. Questions to be explored could include:

  • What are the political implications of these categories?
  • How are these categories deployed in particular struggles?

In addition, papers that reflect on the methodological and epistemological issues connected to these themes are welcome.

  • What are the ways in which we deal with the orientalist influence of categorization of difference?
  • How do we use these categories in academia to think about difference and discrimination?

3. Researching Political Struggles in South Asia

This panel will explore existing and emerging forms of political struggle in contemporary South Asia. These include, but are not limited to, struggles arising from or related to gender, caste, class, religion, language, labour, sexuality, identity, environment, land, resources and borders. In bringing together such diverse bodies of research, our hope is to engage with the following key questions:

  • What are different epistemological and methodological ways of researching and writing about contemporary forms of political struggle? How can we engage with the now extensive subaltern, post-colonial, Marxist and resistance literatures to better orient our understanding of them?
  • What, specifically, is political about these struggles? What is the relation between the political and the cultural?
  • How can we better understand the ways in which (neo)liberalism in South Asia has come to be both embraced and resisted by different social groups and classes? How does the neoliberal state and economy in South Asia impose limitations and open opportunities for different political struggles?
  • What is the role of the “transnational” in such struggles? What can we glean from struggles across colonial and national borders? How can South Asian Studies draw from other area studies literature with regards to research on resistance?
  • What, if anything, is distinct about political struggles in South Asia? Building on the current research and literature, what are the directions and/or possibilities for theorizing critically about political struggles in the region?