Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Call for Papers - Y-SASM 2013

Call for Papers: Intersectional Knowledges – Rethinking Inequality in South Asia

Young South Asia Scholars Meet (Y-SASM), Zurich, 5th-7th September 2013

We invite contributions for the annual Young South Asia Scholars Meet (Y-SASM) which will take place from 5th-7th September in Zurich. Since 2009, Y-SASM has provided a platform for interdisciplinary exchange among junior scholars in the field of South Asian Studies, including PhD students, advanced MA students, early career Post-Docs and non-tenured faculty staff, in the German-speaking academia and beyond.

Under the heading Intersectional Knowledges – Rethinking Inequality in South Asia, this year’s meeting aims to identify new research perspectives on the classical, but nevertheless most relevant, issue of how categories such as gender and sexuality, caste, class, community, etc. interact in producing inequality, exclusion and marginalization in South Asian societies.

Rethinking Inequality in South Asia

Issues of inequality in South Asia remain topical in the public sphere in general and academia in particular. The tropes of ʻIndia rising to a superpower status’ and the ‘coming South Asian markets’ are often juxtaposed with persistent poverty. In India, statistical studies estimate that today’s middle class comprises 5% of the population or around 60 million people, while the country goes through accelerated processes of ‘primitive accumulation’, leading to the disposition and displacement of huge amounts of peasant and tribal populations. Such stark disparities and social inequalities raise pertinent questions in the humanities and social sciences.

Historicizing Inequality

Our first interest is to look at how present forms of inequality developed and evolved historically, confronting us with multiple sites of ‘power and contestation’ (Nivedita Menon & Aditya Nigam 2007). In this question, colonial modes of domination and their role in the creation of modern South Asia assume an important position because they generated, directly or indirectly, the languages of a ‘civilizing mission’, of empire and subsequent nationalisms. These idioms have played important roles in the production and persistence of inequality.

It has been a major strength of studies in the field of gender history in South Asia to go beyond women’s history and look at changes in the norms of gender and the family in relation to colonial encounters and nationalist reform projects (Sangari & Vaid 1990). While women became a crucial ‘site’ for constructing cultural identities, rhetorical strategies of ‘demasculinization’ and re-claiming masculinity were important for legitimizing and challenging colonial rule (Mrinalini Sinha 1995). For example, recent studies concerning labour, women’s rights and deviant sexualities have emphasized how gender is entangled with other structures of domination and projects of empowerment (Samita Sen 1999).

Recent scholarship concerned with caste has debated the impact of colonial knowledge production on the formation of the modern caste system and the part played by high-caste ‘native informants’ in this process. As caste practices were reformed and caste divisions reinforced during colonial times, caste became politicized. In addition, independent India’s contested reservation policy and the economically sustained ‘grammar of caste’ (Ashwini Deshpande 2011) and its related inequalities have made caste crucial to the development of India’s democracy, as well as to the global history of liberal democracy in general.

Marxist claims of a ‘universal history of Capital’ have always been quite problematic, and not only in relation to the South Asian context. In the colonial economy of British India, capitalism was based on the exploitation of a large pool of labour characterized by low productivity and quasi-feudal bonds. Consequently, many contributions in the history of class and labour have concentrated on issues such as indentured labour, the character of working contracts, internal and external labour migration, and so on (Chakravarty 1989). Today, the vast phenomenon of informal work relations, ranging from domestic labour in urban middle-class households to casual and pauperised labour in rural areas, calls for new scholarly attention.

Finally, processes of communalization, ranging from religious discrimination to the development of regional inequalities and subnationalisms are current political issues with dense historical pasts. In India, religious discriminations have gained new acuteness with the rise of the Hindu Right in the 1990s. Since Independence, processes of ethnic polarization have repeatedly characterized the conflict-ridden relationships between the state and regional minorities in India and Pakistan in particular, while the rise of regional subnationalisms have posed challenging questions to scholars trying to trace the critical genealogies of communalization.

Aim of the Meeting

We invite papers dealing broadly with the topic of inequality and are open to contributions from different disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. We strongly encourage contributions that bridge disciplines and bring insights from different fields together. As noted above, we also strongly encourage papers dealing with the complexity of inequality.

Our aim is to look at the four mentioned clusters of inequality – i.e., gender and sexuality, caste, class, and communalism – not in isolation but in their mutual articulations and intersections. Scholars are confronted with the task of dealing with socio-cultural complexities that necessitate the use of analytically justified and politically engaged distinctions. Keeping this in mind, we would like to invite contributions exploring changes within the complex dynamics of gender relations, caste politics, economic relations, communal identities and other relevant issues with a view of their wider societal context and their inter-linkages with other forms of inequality.

Furthermore, by providing a forum for young scholars to present papers on different aspects of inequality, we aim to support them by means of comments and discussions from established scholars. We ask presenters to provide the commentators of their panels with a written paper in advance, so that commentators can prepare substantial feedback and look for fruitful ways to bring insights together. Papers will be also pre-circulated among the other participants to facilitate exchange during the meeting. We hope that such a podium can enrich individual studies, broaden research scopes and provide ideas for further scholarly projects.

Application and Contact

Please send your application, including an abstract of 300-400 words together with a short CV to Maria Framke, to the organizing committee of Y-SASM 2013 (y.sasmconf@googlemail.com), by June 1, 2013. The papers for pre-circulation will be due by August 20, 2013. Please be aware that so far we are not able to assist participants with travel and accommodation costs.