STRUCTURES OF EXCLUSION IN SOUTH ASIA
University of Delhi
23rd – 25th November 2011
The existence of institutionalised exclusion in South Asia is well known: social, economic, political and cultural inequities typically define the corpus identity of academic South Asian studies. Yet, notwithstanding this, it is becoming increasingly recognised that the constitution of principles of exclusion is actually seriously undertheorised.
As compared to other Third World societies, state formations in South Asia have certain similarities, and some unique traits. The character of the state and policy promulgation frequently has served as an entry point into discussions recognising the perpetuation of various forms of exclusion. In this respect, two approaches have traditionally been dominant. In the first, various forms of exclusion stem from an 'institutional lag', whereby projects of (e.g.) 'nationhood' and 'democracy' only partially have countered the legacies of colonialism and/or primordialism. In the second, exclusion is considered as rooted in tenacious cultural practices and ideological dispositions, with states being unable to realise their desired objectives. (As a variant upon this theme, the inappropriateness of 'modernisation' is sometimes considered as acerbating old forms of exclusion, as well as creating new ones.)
There are a number of problems associated with these hegemonic perspectives, not least that numerous counterfactual examples cannot be comprehended/assimilated. Particularly of significance is how many structures of exclusion have undergone considerable historical permutation, with some widely accepted identities being remarkably recent in origin (despite their traction in contemporary debates hinging upon purportedly well established traditions and geographies). Further, although there are plenty of narratives on divergences in the practices of different peoples in South Asia, a great lacuna nevertheless remains when it comes to understanding why these necessarily result in asymmetrical relations that create exclusion/sites of exclusivity. An especial concern is that researchers increasingly are presenting exclusion as self-evident; i.e., with exclusion explained a priori, when difference and exclusion evidently need not be one and the same.
Reductionism informs also a longstanding tension over questions of difference and exclusion in progressive thought. On the one hand, there are canonical figures who essentialise structural asymmetries, and use these as their basic units for social analysis. Unable to recognise how the dynamics of power relations may produce fluxes in exclusivity, a range of literatures has subsequently developed with little correspondence to studies of other aspects of personal identity or popular livelihoods. On the other hand, perspectives assuming that exclusion will persist until axioms of difference are explained away/effaced have recently become especially influential. These views, culminating in such ideas as single-culture/ethnicity states, universal citizenship, 'false consciousness', etc., tend in the long run to reinforce official/sanctified expressions of identity and norms of 'acceptable behaviour'.
An important further issue pertaining to questions of exclusion in South Asia is frequently inadequately theorised. The commonsensical 'key' to recognising the existence of exclusion in society appears often to hinge upon discovering the operation of given abstract principles. In actual case studies, however, their manifestation would appear always to be in the context of an aggregation of many different inequalities. In this respect, there are divergent tendencies that either suggest a single structure of exclusion as predeterminate (thus largely negating any requirement for empirical study) or that propose non-identical structures of exclusion modify one another to such a random and chaotic extent that it becomes next to impossible to establish an agenda for transformative politics. Seemingly necessary is a method that can recognise how the specific ways that the influences of different inequalities fuse together determines not only the form and materialisation of any specified inequality, but also structures the temporality and spatiality of daily life.
In light of these broad concerns, the questions that this year's conference seeks to explore include: (1) what are the histories/genealogies of those structures that provide the material conditions for the re/production of exclusionary identities over space/time? (2) what are the specific conditions for asymmetrical relationships that hold within and between different material spaces/times? (3) what is the semblance of the overall combination of different structures of exclusion within the larger political structures of the subcontinent?
Papers are welcome that interrogate the intersections of class, caste, gender, sexuality, region, language, ethnicity, religion, culture, state policies and politics, and the dogma of the 'normal'. Non-South Asian papers may be accepted, on the basis of their potential for provoking comparative discussions. Interested scholars should submit their affiliation, paper title and one page abstract to the conference committee via firstname.lastname@example.org before 30th September.
Kumar Sanjay Singh / Simon Chilvers
All conference participants with accepted papers have the option of staying without any charge November 22nd to November 26th in clean and comfortable guesthouse accommodation. (N.B. This applies to South Asian and international delegates alike.)
Delegates employed/sponsored by institutions outside of South Asia will be required to pay a registration fee of 200 USD. Concessions may be granted (e.g. to students without major scholarships).
The conference finances will be available for inspection at the close of proceedings. Copies of receipts for expenditures will be available on request.
The conference is organised as an interdisciplinary and politically independent gathering. The organisers are of the opinion that an open and democratic debate is necessary of the serious challenges faced by South Asian populations. The gathering builds upon the conferences 'Culture, Politics & Economics of South Asian Migration' (2010), 'Region Formation in Contemporary South Asia' (2009) and 'The Character & Trajectory of the Indian Economic Formation in an Era of Globalisation' (2008), all organised by the Indian Formation collective. Details on this initiative are available at www.IndianFormationResearch.org
Indian Formation Research Society
Kumar Sanjay Singh
Department of History,
Swami Shraddhanand College,
University of Delhi
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