Global South Asia Conference 2014

Sixth Annual February Conference
2/14/14-2/16/14

Program Outline: Events and Participants

14-Feb Friday

20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor
6:00 – 7:00. Opening Reception. Wine and Cheese
7:00-8:00.  Dance Performance by Preeti Vasudevan: “Savitri – dancing in the forest of death”

 15-Feb Saturday      

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK)
All panels in IPK big room and food, books, etc in IPK open spaces

8:30-9:30. Breakfast reception and registration.
9:30-11:00, and 11:30-1:00.    Panel 1

“From Fasting to Feasting: The Politics of Provisioning and Consumption in Global  South Asia.”

Organizer: Krishnendu Ray, NYU
Moderator/Discussant: Arjun Appadurai, NYU
Panelists: Attiya Ahmad, George Washington University
Sara Dickey, Bowdoin College
Hanna H. Kim, Adelphi University
Jaclyn Rohel, NYU
Benjamin Siegel, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies
Tulasi Srinivas, Emerson College

11:00-11:30.    Coffee Break
1:00-2:00.        Lunch
2:00-3:30         Panel 2

 Ghosts of 1971: Pakistan, memory, and blank spots on a map

Organizer: Naeem Mohaiemen, Columbia University
Panelists: Dina M. Siddiqi, BRAC University, Dhaka
Saadia Toor, CUNY College of Staten Island
Yasmin Saikia, Arizona State University
Naeem Mohaiemen. Columbia University
Gary Bass, Princeton University

3:30-4:00         Coffee Break
4:00-5:30         Panel 3

Progressives in Pakistani History and Culture

Organizer: Asif Akhtar, NYU:
Panelists: Saadia Toor, CUNY, College of Staten Island
Qalandar Bux Memon, Forman Christian College, Lahore
Asif Akhtar, NYU
Amen Jaffar, The New School fo Social Research

5:30-6:00         Wine and Cheese reception
6:00-7:30         Special Lecture and discussion (forming a thematic bridge to Sunday)

“Transparency, quality, and control: Contested market-making in India’s private real estate development sector,” Llerena Searle, Williams College.

8:00 Panelists Dinner at local restaurant

16-Feb. Sunday

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK)
All panels in IPK big room and food, books, etc in IPK open spaces

8:30-9:30         Breakfast reception and registration
9:30-11:00       Panel 4

Who builds your happiness? a panel on migration, labor, and the visual arts

Organizer: Gulf Labor Coalition, http://gulflabor.org/
Panelists: Doris Bittar, Gulf Labor artist coalition
Amin Husain & Nitasha Dhillon, MTL
Mabel Wilson & Jordan Carver, Who Builds Your Architecture
Salil Tripathi, Institute for Human Rights & Business

11:00-11:30     Coffee Break
11:30-1:00       Panel 5

Intersections of Art and Politics in Modern South Asia

Organizer and Discussant: Manan Ahmed, Columbia University
Panelists: Kristina Renee Hodelin, Columbia University
Simon David Lerner Frank, Columbia University
Zahra Haider, Rutgers University
Joslyn Marie DeVinney, Columbia University

1:00-2:00         Lunch
2:00-3:30         Panel 6

The Big Bong Theory: Locating Histories of Science in Modern South Asia

Organizer: Asif Siddiqi, Fordham University
Chair: Dr. Martin Collins, editor, History and Technology.
Discussant: David Ludden, NYU
Panelists: Durba Mitra, Fordham University
Projit Mukharji, University of Pennsylvania
Asif Siddiqi, Professor, Fordham University

3:30-4:00         Coffee Break
4:00-5:30.        Panel 7

International Education: The Political Economy of Global Connectivities, National Locations

Organizer and Discussant: Susan Thomas, The New School for Liberal Arts
Panelists: Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, University of Pennsylvania
Sangeeta Kamat, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Susan Thomas, The New School for Liberal Arts
Neha Vora, Lafayette College.

5:30-6:30       Wine and Cheese with Music
7:00                Panelists Dinner at local restaurant

PROGRAM DETAILS (as available on 8 Jan 2014, provided by panel organizers)

14-Feb Friday
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor

6:00 – 7:00. Opening Reception. Wine and Cheese
7:00-8:00.  Performance: “Savitri – dancing in the forest of death”

Organizer: Erin Mee erinmee1@gmail.com.
Performer: Preeti Vasudevan vasudevan.preeti@gmail.com

Video link (5mins excerpt): https://vimeo.com/72587952

15-Feb Saturday      

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK)
All panels in IPK big room and food, books, etc in IPK open spaces

8:30-9:30. Breakfast reception. Registration.
9:30-11:00. Panel 1, Part 1

“From Fasting to Feasting:

  The Politics of Provisioning and Consumption in Global  South Asia.”

Organizer: Krishnendu Ray, krishnendu.ray@nyu.edu
Moderator/Discussant: Arjun Appadurai, NYU

This two-part panel investigates collective identity formation and the construction of difference in global South Asia through provisioning and consumption. By attending to quotidian food habits, practices of care, and hospitality both in the intimate economies of the domestic and outside the home, the panel troubles the public/private binary. Ben Siegel analyzes how citizenship was carved from collective practices of fasting and diet reform during times of scarcity in mid-20th century India; his study of the ghee lobby’s attempts to thwart the use of vanaspathi by casting this industrial product as dangerous and spiritually hollow reveals the anxieties that surrounded the “modernizing” diet and the state’s industrial vision.  Sara Dickey examines the contested meanings of a public wedding feast, and the ways in which contrasting accounts of the feast intersect with the politics of class relations in Madurai.  Hanna Kim combines circulation of yoghurt cultures, short-cut recipes in sweets-making, and ideas of ‘authentic’ Gujarati food to reveal the limitations of ways of understanding others.  Tulasi Srinivas’ colonial history of chilled tonic water traces this common cocktail ingredient from the bark of the ‘fever tree’ in Peru, known to local Quechua Indians, to its distillation into a prophylactic for malaria in Mongpu, India.  Jaclyn Rohel’s study of paan and the spatial politics of spitting in London analyzes how publics are negotiated in global cities under the conditions of multiple modernities. Finally, Attiya Ahmad examines how ‘house-talk’ amidst practices of cooking, cleaning and care enables South Asian migrant domestic workers in Kuwait to forge new Islamic pieties. The embodied acts of chatting, sipping, fasting, feasting, masticating and spitting serve as important sites of power, where hierarchies are negotiated and identities forged and dismantled.

Attiya Ahmad, “Explanation is Not the Point: House-talk, South Asian Domestic Workers and Becoming Muslim in Kuwait”

Dr. Attiya Ahmad is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University (Washington DC, USA). Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the interrelation between gender, labour migration, diasporic formations, and Islamic movements in the Inter-Asian region.  Dr. Ahmad is also developing a project focusing on halal tourism networks spanning the Arab Gulf States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey.  Her work has appeared in The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, and edited volumes focusing on labour migration, diaspora, and religion in South Asia and the Gulf Arab States.  She is currently revising her book manuscript, which focuses on the Islamic conversions of South Asian migrant domestic workers in Kuwait.  She obtained her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University.

Sara Dickey, “‘All Are Welcome, Please No Gifts’: Class and the Public Wedding Feast”

Sara Dickey is Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College.  Her research focuses on class identities and relations in urban South India, and on the production, consumption, and circulation of Tamil cinema.

Hanna Kim, “Travelling Cultures and Other Essential Ingredients: Approaching Gujarati Otherwise-ness through Food”

Hanna H. Kim received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University.  She is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Adelphi University.  Her research focuses on religious subjectivity in contemporary Gujarat and the BAPS Swaminarayan diaspora. She is interested in the globalising Swaminarayan community’s efforts to accommodate unfamiliar cultural and political landscapes while maintaining its devotional teachings and ontological ideals.

Jaclyn Rohel, “Spitting Image: Betel Leaf Politics and Corporeal Cartographies in London”

Jaclyn Rohel is a doctoral candidate in Food Studies at New York University.  She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, as well as a Masters degree in Philosophy from the University of Alberta, where she studied the Philosophy of the body and taste.  Her current research, located at the intersection of Food Studies and Media and Cultural Studies, focuses on migration and the negotiation of public spheres in global cities by attending to the transnational politics of culinary stimulants and intoxicants.

Benjamin Siegel,  [Title Forthcoming]

Benjamin Siegel is a fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and from 2014, assistant professor of history at Boston University. His book project, book project — the Hungry State: Food and Nation-Building in Modern India — explores the interactions of food, culture, and politics in India’s nationalist movement and its first several decades of independence.

Tulasi Srinivas, “The G&T Chronicles: A Global Tonic for Madness, Masculinity and Malaria”

Tulasi Srinivas is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, Boston,  and a Research Associate at the Kate Hamburger Kolleg at Ruhr-Universitat, Bochum, Germany. She is the author of “Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism Through the Sathya Sai Movement” (Columbia University press 2010) and the co-editor (with Krishnendu Ray) of “Curried Cultures: Food, Globalization and South Asia” (California University press 2012). She is currently finishing  a book project titled “Forging Faith; Towards an Anthropology of Ingenuity”. Srinivas is the co-editor of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series, and an advisor to the World Economic Forum, Geneva.

11:00-11:30     Coffee Break
11:30-1:00      “Fasting to Feasting” Part 2, with discussion by Arjun Appadurai
1:00-2:00         Lunch
2:00-3:30         Panel 2

Ghosts of 1971: Pakistan, memory, and blank spots on a map
Organizer: Naeem Mohaimen naeem.mohaiemen@gmail.com

The recent protests in front of the Pakistan embassy in Dhaka, and the violent police response, encapsulate the missing presence in debates around the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. The statements by cricketer Imran Khan, the Pakistan assembly resolution condemning war crimes trials in Bangladesh, and the Bangladeshi protesters’ demands to cut off diplomatic ties with Pakistan have placed the 1971 war back on the stratum of Bangladesh-Pakistan relationships. For most of 2013, Bangladesh faced a rolling series of street protests that started as the “Shahbag andolon,” led to the counter-movement of Hefazat-e-Islam, and finally expanded to engulf the national elections. As the country plunged into deadlock, via corrosive street violence and failed international mediations, the core debates around war crimes committed during the 1971 war appear to be overcome by a cloud of media white noise. Most of the debates over war crimes focus on alleged Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan Army, not the role of Pakistani soldiers themselves. However, with the recent Pakistan assembly resolution, the missing Pakistan factor has re-entered the 1971 equation. In this panel, we discuss Pakistan within the imaginary and debates around 1971.

“On Stranded Pakistanis”
Dina Siddiqi
“The East Pakistan assembly debates, after 1952”
Saadia Toor
“The “Other” in war films, 40 years apart”
Naeem Mohaiemen
“Insaaniyat and the Pakistan army”
Yasmin Saikia
“Pakistan in the Nixon imaginary”
Gary Bass

Biographies

Dina M. Siddiqi holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a BA in  Economics and Anthropology from Wellesley College, Massachusetts.  An independent scholar and research consultant, she divides her time between the US and Bangladesh. Her forthcoming publications include “Transnational Feminism and “Local” Realities: The Imperiled Muslim Woman and the Production of (In)Justice” in Rogaia Abu Sharaf (editor) Excavating Gender Justice: the Predicament and the Promise,University of Pennsylvania Press and  “Islam, Gender and the Nation: the Social Life of Bangladeshi Fatwas” in Deanna Heath and Chandana Mathur (editors) Communalism and Globalization: South Asian Perspectives, Routledge.  Dina Siddiqi is part of the Core Advisory Group of the South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers (SANGAT) and a member of the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR). She is currently a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS, School of Public Health , BRAC University, Dhaka.

Saadia Toor is Associate Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at CUNY (College of Staten Island). Her scholarship revolves around issues of culture, nationalism, gender/sexuality, state formation, and international political economy. Her book, State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan, was released in 2011 by Pluto Press. Her publications include “Moral Regulation in a Postcolonial Nation-State: Gender and the Politics of Islamization in Pakistan”. Special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, vol.9, issue 2 (July 2007), “A National Culture for Pakistan: The Political Economy of a Debate”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. v. 6, n. 3 (2005), and “Engendering Violence: Boundaries, Histories, and the Everyday”, the introductory essay for special issue of Cultural Dynamics v.16 n 2-3, 2004.

Yasmin Saikia is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University. In her first two books, In the Meadows of Gold: Telling Tales of the Swargadeos at the Crossroads of Assam (1997) and Fragmented Memories: Struggling to Become Tai-Ahom in India (2004), Prof. Saikia examines the connections between Assam and India as well as Assam’s Southeast Asian neighbors, particularly Thailand, through a study of buranjis (pre-modern local chronicles of the Ahom kingdom) and colonial and post-colonial records, including scholarly and militant networks.  A three-year oral history project focusing on the Bangladesh war of 1971 led to the recently completed book, Women, War, and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971 (Duke University Press, Durham/Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2011).

Naeem Mohaiemen is a writer, visual artist (shobak.org), and Ph.D. student in Anthropology at Columbia University. Mohaiemen explores histories of the international left and the contradictions of nationalisms through essays, photography, and film. His work has shown at various venues, including the British Museum, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, and the Sharjah Biennial. His essays have appeared in anthologies, including The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an age of U.S. Power (NYU Press, 2013), Visual Culture Reader, 3rd ed. (Routledge, 2012), and Sound Unbound (MIT Press, 2008). Project themes have been described as “not yet disillusioned fully with the capacity of human society” (Vijay Prashad, Take on Art).

Gary Bass is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (Knopf); Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention (Knopf); and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals (Princeton). A former reporter for The Economist, he has written often for The New York Times, as well as writing for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New RepublicForeign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other publications.

3:30-4:00         Coffee Break
4:00-5:30         Panel 3

Progressives in Pakistani History and Culture: 

Organizer: Asif Akhtar, asif.akhtar@nyu.edu

A neglected aspect of the history of Pakistan are the various routes that Pakistan might have taken post-partition. Two routes that were forgone are particularly worth noting as they had behind them millions of people –if not the majority– at various times in the history of Pakistan.  Firstly, the ethno-nationalist imagery of pluralist and autonomous provinces connecting and harboring difference and interaction. Secondly, the Russian October Revolution inspired imaginary of ending feudalism and monopoly capitalism and moving Pakistan to an egalitarian socialist society. Both currents merge with the formation of National Awami Party in the 1960’s and both suffer a blow beginning with the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Given the current impasse in the national imaginary — it would be worth-while revisiting the history of progressive ethno-nationalist and left movements. This panel will bring together scholars to relation this ‘possible history’ in the context of Pakistan’s current predicament.

Saadia Toor, Associate Professor, Sociology/Anthropology, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Qalandar Bux Memon, Assistant Professor, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan
Asif Akhtar, PhD Candidate Department of Media, Culture and Communications, NYU
Amen Jaffar, PhD Candidate, Sociology, The New School for Social Research

5:30-6:00       Wine and Cheese reception
6:00-7:30       Special Lecture (anticipating tomorrow’s conference themes)

Llerena Searle, Williams College, “Transparency, quality, and control: Contested market making in India’s private real estate development sector”

Abstract: Newly constructed high-rise housing and malls, soaring land prices, and violent confrontations over land testify to the massive urban transformations underway in India today.  The private sector, having gained an expanded role in urban development vis-à-vis the state, helps shape urban restructuring; however, few scholars have studied private real estate development in India or revealed the factions that underlie an analytically unitary “private sector.”  This paper sheds light on private-sector efforts to develop an internationally familiar real estate market in India.  I draw on ethnographic accounts of industry-internal conflicts to theorize foreign investment as a cultural process of constructing authority and control.  Examining interview data, industry reports, and observations, I show how foreign investors wield discourses of “transparency” and “quality” to transform business practices in India.  Using these discourses, foreign investors attempt to establish a normative basis for insisting upon changes in Indian companies’ accounting and valuation methods, firm organization, and construction practices and thus to transform Indian real estate into a globally legible set of practices and an international route of capital accumulation.  Their attempts do not go unchallenged, however.  I argue that the conflicts that emerge between foreign financiers and Indian developers illuminate not only the differences between them but the hierarchies of labor upon which this standardizing, market-making project depends.

8:00 Panelists Dinner at local restaurant

16-Feb             Sunday

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK)
All panels in IPK big room and food service, book sales, etc in IPK open spaces

8:30-9:30       Breakfast reception and registration
9:30-11:00     Panel 4

Who builds your happiness? a panel on migration, labor, and the visual arts
Organizer: Gulf Labor Coalition, http://gulflabor.org/

Three years after a coalition of artists initiated a boycott of the proposed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the topic of exploitation of South Asian migrant labor in the Middle East has received unprecedented news coverage. The Gulf Labor coalition’s series of actions criticizing labor conditions on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat island (home of the proposed Guggenheim, as well as the Louvre and Sheikh Zayed museum, as well as future campus of NYU Abu Dhabi) has landed the case in the art press. A series of damning reports from Human Rights Watch has assisted this, as quantitative and qualitative data has emerged from the secretive work site. The “52 Weeks” artist campaign of GulfLabor has kept the issue in the media. In spite of all these efforts, the latest audit reports showed that most workers were still paying recruitment fees to secure their jobs, in breach of employment rules, and some had their wages and passports withheld for up to six months. In addition, the recent labor riots on one of the work sites, and unconfirmed reports of replacing striking Bangladeshi workers with Pakistani workers show that, at least in the media, the idea of “docile,” or “obedient” workers linked to nationalities continues to be a powerful stereotype, and disciplining tool.

Speakers
“On the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi”
Doris Bittar, Gulf Labor artist coalition

” No Debt Is An Island”
Amin Husain & Nitasha Dhillon, MTL

“Toward ethical architecture”
Mabel Wilson & Jordan Carver, Who Builds Your Architecture

“Islands of Happiness revisited”
TBD, Human Rights Watch

“The Dhaka Principles”
Salil Tripathi, Institute for Human Rights & Business

Biographies

Interdisciplinary artist, Doris Bittar lives in San Diego, California and teaches at California State University San Marcos. Bittar combines diverse activities from art making, teaching and writing to community organizing. Bittar’s paintings, photos and interactive installations explore the intersection between the decorative arts and history. Bittar has shown in Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and her art is in several public collections. Bittar graduated from the University of California San Diego with a Masters of Fine Arts and participated at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.

Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain are MTL, a collaboration that joins research, aesthetics and organizing in its practice. MTL’s underlying interest is the experience of being human and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up our lives. Nitasha Dhillon (b.1985, India) and Amin Husain (b.1975, Palestine/USA) attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York and the School of International Center of Photograph. They were both deeply involved in Occupy Wall Street and continue to edit and publish Tidal, Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy, http://www.tidalmag.org, a strategic platform that weaves together the voices of on-the-ground organizers with those of longstanding theorists to explore the possibilities created by the rupture of Occupy and its aftermath.

Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor at Columbia University’s GSAPP program. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies and co-directs Global Africa Lab. She is a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? an advocacy project to educate the architectural profession about the problems of globalization and labor. She has authored Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012), which was a runner-up for John Hope Franklin Prize for the best American Studies publication. Exhibitions of her work have been featured at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and SF Cameraworks. She received her Masters of Architecture from the GSAPP and a Ph.D in American Studies from NYU.

Salil Tripathi is director – emerging issues at the Institute for Human Rights and Business. He has long standing experience in advancing the business and human rights agenda around the world. As a researcher at Amnesty International (1999‑2005) he participated in negotiations that created the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and represented Amnesty in the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights process from its inception until 2008. As senior policy adviser at International Alert (2006-2008) he played a key role in the process that developed the Red Flags initiative. He has researched human rights issues in Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Colombia, and sits on the external advisory corporate citizenship panels of GE and Exxon. Salil is also a writer. He has served on the board of English PEN and co-chaired its Writers-at-Risk Committee. Born in Bombay, he lives in London, and graduated with an MBA from Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College. He is the author of a book on free speech and artistic freedom in India, and is currently writing a book on the 1971 war of independence in Bangladesh.

11:00-11:30     Coffee Break
11:30-1:00  Panel 5

Intersections of Art and Politics in Modern South Asia

Organizer and Discussant: Manan Ahmed, Columbia University ma3179@columbia.edu
Panelists: Kristina Renee Hodelin <krh2138@columbia.edu>
Simon David Lerner Frank <sdf2123@columbia.edu>
Zahra Haider <zahra.haider@gmail.com>
Joslyn Marie DeVinney <jmd2242@columbia.edu>

Joslyn DeVinney, Columbia University: “Kalighat Pats and Questions of Modernity”

Partly in response to urbanization in the nineteenth century, village folk painters (patuas) moved to Calcutta and sold their wares near the Kalighat temple.  The paintings (pats) they produced in this changing environment demonstrate a non-elite response to a society engaging with colonialism and ideas of modernity.  In this paper I will examine three Kalighat pats that depict male and female subjects. I will look at how the pats articulate class and gender critiques in a colonial context while simultaneously upholding certain “traditional” cultural standards.  Also, the actual materiality of these works demonstrates an art form that could be associated with ideas of “innovation” and “progress” that were not solely the result of the colonial encounter.  Overall, I will argue for multiple meanings and levels of modernity by framing a discussion of the pats’ form and content in a “Calcutta-specific modernity.”

Simon Frank, Columbia University: “Socialist Nehru and Nationalist Nehru: Political Shifts in the Writing of Indian History”

In historical works on Nehru there is a disjuncture between early accounts, which place him within a left wing, socialist context, and more recent works that identify him as a democratic nationalist. Examining Anglo-American history writing as well as Indian work published as a part of the broader English language academic community, I will argue that earlier historians exaggerated Nehru’s connection to socialism and the international left, but also that he is not necessarily the direct progenitor of contemporary capitalist India, as implied by some recent work. This essay will explore the manner in which contemporary views and history writing on India obscure how Nehru and his country were perceived in the first decades of independence, and how this earlier writing was shaped by its own political context.

Zahra Haider, Rutgers University: “Mapping Sectarian Violence in Pakistan on Social Media in the Diaspora Community”

Sectarian violence in Pakistan has been at its peak in recent years. The number of incidents that have resulted in injuries and even deaths in the minority population has steadily been rising. This is an increasingly modern and relevant issue. It is a cause for concern not only on a national level, but also from a global perspective. And where scholars and analysts are constantly assessing the issue of sectarian violence in Pakistan, it is important to note the effects of national events on the growing Pakistani community abroad. This study analyzes the reaction of overseas Pakistanis in an attempt to understand the growing shift towards a more orthodox Islam, both socially and religiously. Also of interest are whether or not condemnation or encouragement of sectarian violence leads to financial and/or other forms of materialistic support towards militant and orthodox groups in Pakistan.

Kristina Hodelin, Columbia University: “Gamakams, Sitar, Tabla, and Venu: Classical South Asian Music and Indian Diasporas”

For this paper, I will examine the use of classical Carnatic and Hindustani music and how Indo-American, Indo-British, Indo-Canadians, Indo-Caribbeans utilize classical music within Western styles of music. I will examine how they incorporate these classical styles into Western genres such as pop, hip-hop, r&b, and reggae. I will also discuss more relatively new fusions of these styles into the Caribbean genre of music called chutney, which is native to Trinidad. The importance of spiritual aspects and community identity within the musical styles of the Indo-American, Indo-British, Indo-Canadian, and Indo-Caribbean Diasporas will be examined.

1:00-2:00         Lunch
2:00-3:30         Panel 6

The Big Bong Theory: Locating Histories of Science in Modern South Asia

Organizer: Asif Siddiqi, Fordham University, siddiqi@fordham.edu
Chair: Dr. Martin Collins, editor, History and Technology
Discussant: David Ludden, NYU

This panel interrogates the efficacy of concepts of the local and the global through histories of science, technology, and medicine in colonial and postcolonial India.  The panel will consider questions of locality in relation to historical claims to universal forms of knowledge and progress. Through investigations of late colonial and postcolonial India and the Indian diaspora, the panelists explore specific experiences and interpretations of everyday life in relation to the transnational circulation of ideas and people.  Through the case of Ola Bibi, the goddess of cholera in Bengal, Projit Mukharji deconstructs the  of the supernatural as a marker of the local from claims about the universal rationality and progress of science. Durba Mitra investigates how medical writings from colonial Bengal created a new approach to social ethics that brought together local histories with transnational forms of scientific knowledge through discussions of female sexuality. Asif Siddiqui explores how Indian elites at MIT, surrounded by the transnational political movements against the Vietnam War, sought to re-imagine Indian nationhood and its members through space technologies that could access “the masses” in India. Together, the papers demonstrate how histories of science and medicine provide unique insights into the relationship of the “local” and “global” for modern South Asia, and how these are themselves historically constituted and contingent concepts.

Durba Mitra, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Fordham University, “Locating Difference: Science, Sexuality, and Ethics in Bengal, 1920s-1930s”

This paper analyzes Bengali medical writings on sexuality that produced a new science of society in Bengal in the 1920s and 1930s, focusing in particular on scientific writings that explored women’s social transgressions and sexual desires. How did “local” understandings of social order and sovereignty shape the interpretations of transnational ideas about sexuality by Indian writers in late colonial Bengal? I anchor my exploration of writings on the science of society in an extended analysis of the writings of two medical doctors, Gyanendrakumar Maitra, who wrote on everything from stomach infections to sexual and venereal diseases and prostitution, and Santosh Kumar Mukherji, a well-known medical doctor who was awarded the Padma Shri award in 1962 for his contributions to Indian medical science.  Bengali writers in the 1920s and 1930s combined circulating ideas of science, history, and sociology to understand the present condition of Bengali society and dictate appropriate forms of social and sexual behavior.  For these writers, the study of sexuality in Bengal was fundamentally an ethical project, an endeavor that united the study of universal laws of sexual urge with specific histories of social difference in India.  I consider how these writings produced new hierarchies of gender and social status through claims to a “global” language of sexual science that naturalized and obscured social difference.

Projit Mukharji, Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies Department of History & Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania,  “Duncan Saheb’s Bibi: Translocating the Local in Histories of Medicine.”

Postcolonial critique and the scholarly appetite for the ‘imaginal alterity’ of colonized targets of colonial public health have converged to produce a hallowed space in histories of colonial medicine for the supernatural. Gods, goddesses, vampires, shape-shifters and so on have come to be seen as the trenchant markers of ‘locality’. They are celebrated as interrupting the smooth, global march of capital and resisting the disenchanted rationality of post-Enlightenment science. In the process, the “local” has been reified into an apriori spatial designation that eludes history and the supernatural beings themselves have been rendered strangely immobile. Using the case of the famous cholera goddess of Bengal, Ola Bibi, I want to argue for a different approach to the “local”: one that agrees to see “locality” as a intimate space of experience, but does so by resolutely insisting on its historical production. By restoring the promiscuity of the transnational and the transrational, I want to reimagine the “local” as always already “translocal”. I want to map the opposition to the disenchanting impulses of capital not as an immobile holdout, but rather as a fleet-footed bête-noir.

Asif Siddiqi, Professor, Department of History, Fordham University “A Space for Development: Indian Science, MIT, and the Vietnam War”

The resilience of particular meanings associated with the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ provide an entry point for the current paper. Here, I focus on a brief episode in the early history of the Indian space program when the nexus of activity shifted from India to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a site that was arguably ‘local’ to Indian scientific elites. Here, in 1969 and 1970, with the support of the U.S. Department of Defense, the government of India commissioned a study for a satellite to broadcast educational programs to India’s poor. That this research coincided with major anti-Vietnam War protests directed at MIT’s involvement with the Pentagon casts the episode into a larger conversation about the fundamental tension characterizing the beginning of the Indian space program: it depended on an elite professional network that transcended nation, and privileged a national imperative that transcended elite concerns. Furthermore, the raison d’être of the satellite project was couched in the idiom of universalism drawn from Gandhi, paradoxically not dissimilar to the language of the antiwar protests, although the link between the two was all but occluded in the official discourse, which instead encouraged a reading of MIT’s global and benign attributes over an understanding of it as local (to Indian elites) and militarized (to antiwar protestors). Thus, we see here the production of knowledge contained in a space whose ambit could be freely altered to contain a variety of incongruences (global, local, and other) that were deeply redolent of elite Indian scientific and technological efforts in the mid-twentieth century.

3:30-4:00  Coffee Break
4:00-5:30.      Panel 7

International Education: The Political Economy of Global Connectivities, National Locations

Organizer and Discussant: Ritty Lukose  ral13@nyu.edu

As various actors are increasingly turning to the sphere of education as a valuable site for building global connectivities, the field of international education is gaining in importance. Many policymakers, practitioners, and scholars are pointing to the apparent economic, social, and political benefits that developing international education projects would promise.  Offering a more critical approach, our panel examines how the work of international education is unfolding in specific ways within the contexts of India, Pakistan, and the South Asian diasporas in Qatar and the United States.  We provide a closer consideration of the political economic conditions under which international education policies and practices are formed, as a way to understand what is at stake and for whom.  By attending to the complexities of these developments, we illuminate how international education projects have vital implications for both nation-building interests and global connections, as well as the everyday practices of belonging of the populations concerned.

Panel Members: Sangeeta Kamat, Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, Neha Vora, Susan Thomas

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher is a Senior Lecturer in the Education, Culture, and Society Program at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She is also the Associate Director for the International Educational Development Program at UPenn. She conducts research both in the U.S. and overseas, including on issues involving educational access, equity and quality in the context of Pakistan.   Dr. Ghaffar-Kucher’s practitioner work has focused on teachers’ professional development in Pakistan.

Sangeeta Kamat is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She has worked with various community-based organizations in India that strive to construct an alternative framework for development; the relationships she built through this work have informed her own research immensely.  Dr. Kamat’s current scholarly interests include globalization and education, gender issues in development education and social movements, and ethnographies of educational policymaking.

Susan Thomas is an Adjunct Professor in the Education Studies program at The New School for Liberal Arts. She recently received her PhD in the Education, Culture & Society program at University of Pennsylvania. Her research efforts concerned how university life is mediated by U.S. imperialism in the contemporary moment, a question she considered through the lens of transnational educational migration.  Her areas of research interest include migration and transnationalism, South Asian diasporas, the national security state, and the neoliberalization of higher education.

Neha Vora is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Lafayette College. Her book, Impossible Citizens: Dubai’s Indian Diaspora, was recently released by Duke University Press. Her scholarly interests include globalized higher education, migration, South Asian diasporas in the Gulf Arab states, and gender and ethnicity.

Neha Vohra’s paper abstract: Over the last decade, the state of Qatar has invested billions of dollars in bringing American branch campuses to the country as part of its development as a “knowledge-based economy.” State discourses emphasize how becoming a knowledge economy will fulfill certain aspirations for the country, both by allowing Qatar to move away from finite petroleum-based wealth, and also by successfully “Qatarizing” the economy—reducing the country’s current reliance on foreign labor by introducing more skilled citizens into the workforce. The American university branch campuses that are at the center of Qatar’s knowledge economy implementation are organized around certain Western/American educational norms, such as meritocracy, egalitarianism, and models of “global citizenship” meant to make students competitive in multinational settings. In this paper, I explore how South Asian non-citizens (who make up one of the largest demographics in American branch campuses) interact with and understand Qatar’s new knowledge economy, paying particular attention to the seemingly contradictory models of  “global citizenship” on the one hand, and “Qatarization” on the other—one a philosophy that is open and inclusive, and the other aimed specifically at being closed and exclusive. This ethnography of the negotiations, challenges, and experiences of transferring American educational models to a non-liberal space provides new insights into current debates about globalizing American higher education, as well as into the contradictory and overlapping modes of governance and economic development through which Gulf States’ envision their futures.

5:30-6:30 Wine and Cheese with Music
7:00 Panelists Dinner at local restaurant.