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Call for papers: Modalities of Displacement in South Asia

‘Displacement’ has emerged as a keyword in studies of South Asia, across research in historical, anthropological, geographical, and cultural studies. In June 2018 Leiden University will host a two day conference - Modalities of Displacement - that will discuss 'displacement' in its multiple vectors and possibilities. Conference jointly organized by the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), the Anthropology Department, and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) at Leiden University, the Netherlands, on June 14-15, 2018.

The displacement of large numbers of people is a central feature of the rapid economic expansion that characterises contemporary South Asia. Rooted in violent processes of state formation, including partition, militarisation, 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’.

While displacement has emerged as a keyword across research in historical, anthropological, geographical, and cultural studies, as well as in fields of migration, development, urban studies, rural land struggles, and memory or heritage, inter-disciplinary dialogues are often rare. In this conference, we intend to bring together different disciplinary perspectives in conversation with empirical case studies, to think about what the modalities of displacement in contemporary South Asia can be. We think of physical displacement (e.g. in migration studies), ideological displacement (e.g. in anthropological discussions about the politics of belonging), emotional displacement (e.g. in considerations of the ‘unheimlich’ in cultural studies), economic displacement (e.g. in studies of land struggles and dispossession), and aesthetic displacement (e.g. in urban geographies). The panels of the conference will be organised to produce interdisciplinary conversations on these different and overlapping modalities of displacement, providing a platform for established and emerging researchers to connect and share insights.

This two-day conference is organised 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. We particularly welcome submissions that address perspectives from urban peripheries, rural hinterlands, borderlands, transnational contexts, and the margins of national imaginations. Apart from a select set of panels dedicated to the modalities of displacement, we will also host a workshop (upon invitation) on residential segregation and religious politics. Furthermore we invite presentations based on audio-visual materials, such as films or art works.


Send your abstracts (300 words) to: displacement@hum.leidenuniv.nl, along with key-words, a short bio, contact details, and, if applicable, information about the duration and nature of the audio-visual materials to be presented.

Deadline for submissions: 22 January, 2018.  

Selection: Mid February 2018 (tentative).

Funding: Very limited partial funding is available for a small number of participants.


  • Dr. Erik de Maaker, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (CA-DS), Leiden University.
  • Dr. Sanjukta Sunderason,
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University.
  • Dr. Sanderien Verstappen (coordinator), Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University, IIAS Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies.
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