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Modalities of Displacement in South Asia

Thursday 14 June 2018 - Friday 15 June 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

On June 14-15, 2018, the Asian Modernities and Traditions project Postcolonial Displacement will organize a two-day international conference - Modalities of Displacement – at Leiden University. The conference will bring together experts from across disciplines, geographies and institutes to initiate conversations about ‘displacement’ in its multiple vectors, modalities and possibilities.

The displacement of large numbers of people is a central feature of the rapid economic expansion that characterizes contemporary South Asia. Rooted in violent processes of state formation, including partition, militarization, and the repression of regional secessionist movements, South Asia’s modern polities are actively consolidating and incorporating erstwhile economically and politically marginal spaces. These processes of consolidation have been accompanied by the emergence of religious nationalisms and ethnic identity politics that legitimize the ideological or even physical segregation of ‘others’, conjoining land struggles and development projects with socio-cultural contestations around home and belonging. The conference Modalities of Displacement interrogates some of these complexities through the notion of ‘displacement’.

This two-day conference takes place in the context of the projects Postcolonial Displacements: Migration, Narratives and Place-Making in South Asia (LIAS/CA-DS) and Rerouting Relations (IIAS) at Leiden University. It is jointly organized by the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) at Leiden University, the Netherlands.

The conference consists of

Shifting landscapes of residential segregation along lines of class, caste, ethnicity, and religion in India present delicate research challenges. As Indian cities, towns, and villages witness deepening segregation along religious lines, researchers addressing these transformations are confronted with sensitive political histories of violence and displacement, contended narratives, and silenced memories, and also with questions of method, representation, and ethics, such as how to address the politics of separation without reiterating its premises. This workshop will be an open-ended discussion on the question of how existing methods and concepts nurture or limit our understanding of residential segregation in rural and urban India, and on how we might develop new approaches. It will start with three proposals for methodological innovation by Raheel Dhattiwala (University of Amsterdam), Pablo Holwitt (University Muenster) and Sanderien Verstappen (Leiden University), and ensue in a roundtable discussion with participation from professor Pralay Kanungo, Ajay Ghandi, and Radhika Gupta (Leiden University).

The workshop and roundtable discussion are open for attendence by anyone interested. Please register via the webform below (either for the workshop only or for the workshop and lunch). Directly after the workshop, a lunch will be provided for the participants and registered attendees. 

Registration is required: please register via this link: https://iias.asia/event/workshop-new-approaches

Thursday June 14, 10-12 hours, at IIAS, the International Institute for Asian Studies, Rapenburg 59, Leiden

Panel 1:  Making place, losing space: Gendered narratives of transposition

DAY 1. 14 June. 13.30-15.00, at Lipsius 3.07, Cleveringaplaats 1, convened by Erik de Maaker

This panel explores how perceptions of place and conceptualizations of space attain shape in relation to gender. In South Asia the inequalities and hierarchies associated with gender find expression in people’s understandings of space and concomitant contestations of place. In line with the broader questions that this conference poses, how does gender, as a ‘modality’, intersect with other social categories that create vulnerability for people being subject to displacement? The contributions to this panel engage with these questions from different angles, exploring ontologies, moralities, as well as normalcy or the everyday. Each of these papers then, from another angle, engages with the normativities associated with gender, and the ways in which these are legitimized, taken for granted or contested.

Panel 2: Verbs of Displacement: Enacting, Legitimizing, Negotiating, Adapting

DAY 2. 15 June. 09.30 – 11.30, at Lipsius 3.07, Cleveringaplaats 1, convened by Sanderien Verstappen

This panel looks at displacement-as-a-verb, to think about the work of displacement, with a special interest in complex and subtle practices of enacting, legitimizing, negotiating and adapting. The papers bring together discussions from India and Pakistan, in settings at the margins of the national imagination – the borderland, the refugee colony, the forest and the mountain –which are currently undergoing various kinds of political, economic, and socio-cultural transformations, including in situ or ex situ displacements. We will think through the complex ways in which inhabitants, tresspassers and other actors within and beyond the state enact and negotiate these transformations.

Panel 3: Traces/Specters: Displacements as palimpsests

DAY 2. 15 June. 13.00 - 14.30, at Lipsius 3.07, Cleveringaplaats 1, convened by Sanjukta Sunderason

How do displacements mark spaces, objects, memories and histories? Streamlining the larger questions being explored in the conference, this panel will look at material and non-material ways in which displacements persist – as traces, spectres, wounds – after the event and rupture. We are mobilizing here, the concept of the ‘palimpsest’ – connoting the persistence of traces after erasure and re-writing – to think about materialities of one history traversing another, the visibilities of erasure, the flashes of absence in presence. We are particularly interested in interconnecting concepts of materiality and temporality, to bring together historical, anthropological and literary perspectives. The panel will address case-studies, archives and/or objects to questions of traces, hauntings, wounds, and specters. 

As one of the oldest centres of Asian Studies in Europe, Leiden University has not only led classical Indological research for over a century, but has in the past decade grappled with new modes of re-imagining research and pedagogies around modern and contemporary South Asia at large. Such re-configurations of studying and teaching “other places” – framed as “Area Studies” in the university – involve institutional and pedagogical negotiations around subjects and scopes, interdisciplinarity and the politics of teaching about contentious pasts and presents. More importantly, such conversations activate conceptual and theoretical discussions around what teaching “other places” means today: What does teaching Asia in Europe look like? What must the relationship of “area studies” centers be with “disciplinary institutes”? Do we need to rethink the consensus about what defines “areas”, or can new conceptual frameworks guide new pedagogies around a truly transnational curriculum? Connected to these questions, is a more fundamental one: how must such pedagogies on “areas” develop “looking from” and not simply “looking at” “other places” in Asia or Africa?

While this roundtable seeks to address these broader questions around “new pedagogies of/on the South”, it will focus on the critical thematic of “Dis-placements” that make us rethink the fixities and tenuousness of “place” itself as a frame. What are the frontiers of South Asia – as place and in pedagogy? What are its peculiarities as well as its potentialities? How do thematics like “Displacement” offer possibilities for teaching South Asia both through rooted national and regional stories, and alert at the same time, to their trans-national embeddedness? 

This Roundtable forms a part of the conference Modalities of Displacement in South Asia, and will benefit from the presence of conference delegates who will be addressing these questions. In addition, we will have invited guests from India, Germany, and across Leiden University, who will speak to the theme raised here. 

We warmly invite our students, colleagues and fellow-researchers to join the conversation!

Thursday 14 June. 1530-1700, at Lipsius 3.07, Cleveringaplaats 1
Hosted by Asian Modernities and Traditions project Postcolonial Displacements

This keynote lecture examines histories of dispossession as closely imbricated with the history of militarism and state expansion in South Asia, and highlights the role of the law in both founding violence and serving as a defense, albeit fragile, against state violence. It examines three phases of displacement in South Asia (with a focus on India) from the late 19th to early 21st century: periods of forest reservation, large dams and hydraulic projects and mining. The late 19th century phase of forest reservation was associated with a number of localized rebellions, which were then militarily suppressed by the colonial state, with protective laws serving to paper over the cracks created by force. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there have been a number of police firings associated with land acquisition, as well as full fledged counterinsurgency and militarization around mining sites. The violence of acquisition then has an active afterlife in mining sites. Mining sites are essentially violent sites—thick with fear and suspicion as people from these same communities are suborned or bribed into working in the mines, acting as scabs, or fighting as foot soldiers in military projects in the absence of other employment. This, in turn, feeds into violence against women, as traditional household economies change under the impact of loss of resources, migration, the influx of cash, alcohol, and commercial sex work. Finally, there is a shift from a nominally welfare state to one that serves primarily as an agent of extractive capital, which leads to a significant displacement of citizenship.  

This keynote lecture by Nandini Sundar, professor of Sociology at Delhi University, is hosted by Leiden Global Interactions. It is followed by drinks.
Friday June 15, 15-17 hours, at Gravensteen, Pieterskerkhof 6, Leiden.

Find here the full programme.

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