Call for Panel Participants: Annual Conference on South Asia

NOTE: These are individual calls for finding co-panelists to for the Annual Conference on South Asia. Please contact the individuals directly to make a connection.

Famines in South Asia: A Study in Comparison

Classic famine historians like B.M. Bhatia and others have suggested that, 19th century India experienced the largest number of famines that occurred during the last millennium. And his thesis goes on to expose the ‘nature and causes’ of famines in British India. There has been a modest amount of scholarship on this subject over the past two decades or so but none analyze the pre-colonial India and how it was different from the British colonial times, particularly in the context of recurring famines in the 19th century that decimated millions of lives. This panel proposes to make a comparative study of pre-colonial and colonial famines and droughts to see how they were different not just in terms of its nature and causes but also in terms of the state response to the catastrophe. Please reply to Swati Prakash (simplygarg@gmail.com).


We are looking for co-presenters who might share broad similar interests related to village studies, agrarian change – agrarian relations,structures and increasing commercialisation and effects of neo-liberal development policies on the same. This particular research paper is situated in the context of rural Telangana in Andhra Pradesh… Would love to collaborate with scholars working on related themes across any regional and national locales. Please contact Bhupathi Reddy at bhupathi.hcu@gmail.com for further discussion – by 28th/29th March 2011 at the latest.


Cross Border Negotiations: Moving on from Partition

Despite the pervasive understanding that relations between the states of South Asia are characterised by implacable tensions, lack of communication, often beset with animosity and violence, the reality is far more complicated. While Partition left lasting scars in the political, economic and social fabric of India and Pakistan, there also emerged enduring channels of negotiation that operated at both governmental and, simultaneously and asymmetrically, various local levels. These channels were fashioned out of various cultural and economic ties that had already existed across the newly demarcated borders, as well as new means of cooperation and dialogue. The realities of the cross border exchanges between India, Pakistan and latterly, Bangladesh are thus more rounded than a series of mutually reinforcing hostile recrimination. We will illustrate this by, firstly, examining aspects of this in the early post-colonial period; a time that was crucial in shaping today’s Subcontinent. The governments of India and Pakistan, as they emerged as newly independent nation states, sought to finalise the process of division. This desire formed the basis of cooperation between the state structures of both countries and informed much of their early dialogue. Secondly, we will explore the contemporary realities in borderlands which were formed by that period. In both circumstances, what we find is that not only are states able to communicate and work with one another but also that borderlanders are able to influence these negotiations as well. What is important to note here is that such negotiations are not determined by a romantic notion of the common brotherhood of south Asians, but also by the pragmatic aim of resolving and gaining from the realities of Partition. Please contact: Pallavi Raghavan (University of Cambridge): pr320@cam.ac.uk Delwar Hussain (University of Cambridge) : dh368@cam.ac.uk


Jam-Space’: Urban Infrastructure and the (Traffic) Jam in urban South Asia

The cities of South Asia are characterized by vehicular excess, often leading to jams of all sorts. The desire and need for circulation across the urban spaces of South Asia challenges traveller, urban planner, migrant and anthropologist alike to apply quick-fix ploys, find stopgap measures, and explore other ways of making do that characterize the creative navigation of urban spaces. Daily infuriation, anxiety and exhaustion combine with flirtation, invention and humour to give rise to creative reconstructions of urban technologies, from flyovers to footpaths, to facilitate movement. A recent article in the New York Times strongly critiques such practices of “jugaad”, creative make-shift solutions to problems of transport, which the paper claims is “the problem” since it relies on what it calls an “uncompromising practicality”.

This panel seeks to interpret the forms and functions of ‘jamming’. We combine ideas about ‘cultural jamming’ as political movement and tactic, musical jam-sessions as creative assemblage, and Rem Koolhaas’ notion of ‘jam-space’, “the totally negotiable, usually illegal and hugely productive space of the traffic jam” (2000:685).  The papers in the panel will explore the ways in which the notion of the ‘jam-space’ can generate a new set of readings for ‘jams’ in urban infrastructure in general, beyond its status as inevitable nuisance and malady. Instead, we ask: What forms of social life does the jam engender? Does the traffic jam encourage jamming-strategies of other sorts, from the arts to politics? Who proliferates in such spaces and what languishes? What tools do we use to describe such new, organic, breathing social life forms? What relations of intimacy, commerce or pleasure grow up around notorious bottlenecks? How are notions of space and time transformed due to emergent jams? Is the jam an object or a practice? We argue that the city is jammed, both in terms of infrastructural density and blockages, as well as in terms of creative production, tactical appropriation and ludic play. Serious exploration of jams and jamming may lead to new insights into this ubiquitous urban phenomenon and to news ways of thinking the ‘jam’ in the urban space of South Asia.

To participate, please send a 250 word abstract and CV asap to: Lotte Hoek ( lotte.hoek@ed.ac.uk) and Mathangi Krishnamurthy (mkrishnamurt@wisc.edu).