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Relocating Governance in Asia: state and society in South- and Southeast Asia, c. 1800-2000

Wednesday 22 January 2020 - Friday 24 January 2020
More information about the time and program wil be announced later.
To be announced
To be announced


Over the last decades, the study of governance in Asia has increasingly expanded to include a focus upon non-state entities. Historians have realized that engagement with local intermediaries, civil society organizations, power brokers, and interest groups has been crucial to the day-to-day administration of European colonies and postcolonial states alike. Historically, colonial regimes contended and interacted with pre-existing political and socioeconomic structures of the regions they occupied and sought to reshape. Simultaneously there has been a continued awareness that ideas, methods and policies did not develop in isolation in each colony, but instead circulated in trans-imperial networks. Similarly, nation states in postcolonial republics from Indonesia to India and Pakistan have been compelled to seek dialogue with non-state actors, even as their solutions to challenges from these quarters have been informed by wider discourses on statecraft.

This conference seeks to bring together these different insights in comparative perspective, to shed light on the many paradoxes, differences and continuities of (post)colonial rule across Asia. We seek to highlight the different sources and brokers of power in colonial and postcolonial societies, and the manner in which these interacted, contradicted, overlapped with and challenged the authority of the state. The aim is to bring this wider context of governance into focus, by crossing regional and temporal boundaries and including colonial and postcolonial states in the same framework of research.

The conference welcomes empirical investigations on the fluctuations of colonial and postcolonial governance, policy making and practice in its daily realities. Of interest are for instance: the hybridity and ambiguity of colonial law in theory and practice, the roles of intermediaries, colonial bureaucracies and the connections between old and new forms of statecraft, or ritual and bureaucratic procedure. Comparative studies between South- and/or Southeast Asia and other parts of the world are also welcome.

keynote speakers are prof. dr. Indrani Chatterjee (University of Texas at Austin), prof dr. Robert Cribb (Australian National University) and dr. Farish A. Noor (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore).

Chiefs of Sungai Batung, Sumatra’s West Coast c. 1900

Call for papers

We invite papers based on case-studies on the following questions:

  • What were the limitations of colonial governance and how did these shape postcolonial states?
  • When and how did colonial society come into direct contact with the state? How was the experience of colonial rule different for those who were at the center or the periphery, geographically or socioeconomically?
  • How did people subjected to the colonial state attempt to ensure their interests were served, and what strategies did interest groups use to manipulate state policy-making and implementation? What role did power brokers and intermediaries play in this?
  • How, and to what extent, did the forms and routines of governance that were developed in colonial times, translate to and reverberate in post-colonial states?

Prospective participants are invited to send an abstract of no more than 250 words and a max. 100 word biographical statement by 15 August, 2019 to relocatinggovernance2020@hum.leidenuniv.nl. Decisions will be conveyed by 15 September. Final papers should be between 6,000-8,000 words.

This is a N.W. Posthumus conference co-sponsored by the programme AMT: Asian Modernities and Traditions, the Vereniging KITLV / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, the Institute for History (Leiden University) and the Faculty of Law (Leiden University).

We especially invite scholars from Asia to apply. We will attempt to offer limited funding to those travelling from outside of Europe.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, who is also a mahant of the math in Gorakhpur

Source image "Chiefs of Sungai Batung": Leiden University Libraries, KITLV 90958
Source image "Prime Minister Narendra Modi": Wikimedia Commons

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