2013: Modernity and its Discontents

April 26-27, 2013

Keynote address: Professor Thomas Blom Hansen (Stanford University)

The recent crescendo of public opinion, as well as less conspicuous rumblings of the past, has called into question the trajectories of political and economic development in modern South Asia. In academic debate, these critiques are not restricted to the postcolonial state and its government but trace longer genealogies of power structures and knowledge formations. This workshop aims to bring different disciplines in conversation on the theme of modernity and the voices of difference and discontent that resist it, or are silenced by it.

We invite papers from early career scholars (graduate students and junior faculty) in all disciplines that engage with South Asia. Papers could address, but are not limited to the following sub themes:

Genealogies of Modernity: How do we untangle the long genesis of forces, relationships, and tropes which inform the conflicts associated with modernity? This sub-theme may include issues such as transitions to early modernity in the subcontinent, the “invention” of tradition, and the production of identities and practices connected to debates over modernity.

The State and its Insurgents: Unification and separation present a deep tension in modern India’s state building project. The Nehruvian era attempted the unification and standardization of independent India, but there were other voices and projects that called for separation, differentiation and recognition. Moving beyond analyses of particular separatist movements, how do we interpret this tension to shed light on deeper conflicts in modern South Asia?

Stages of Capital: Does Capital trace a different path in non-western cultures and does this path subsume in its travels all other economies? Is there an indigenous economy that can contest the flow of Capital in different cultures? We invite papers that locate difference in economic practices, discuss terminologies like ‘crony capitalism’ and trace parallel economies in the history of Capitalism.

Texts of Power: How does privileging archives constituted by law, science or statistics inform our understanding of modernity? What are the languages and expressions of resistance and difference? Are they to be found in popular literature, Dalit fictions, populist movements, or more hidden transcripts that the scholar must learn to read?

Multiple Modernities: Can we trace the alternate routes of the modern as it travels cultures? How is the modern expressed in regional literature, art, architecture, urban spaces, music, and films? Does a shift in focus to the region meaningfully inflect our idea of the modern?

Gendered Modernity: Recent feminist studies have explored new theories of modernity, foregrounding the social construction of gender and challenging our understandings of modern masculine/feminine binaries. How do such theories reconfigure perceptions of modern gendered social relations?

Paper proposals should include a title, a 300-word abstract, institutional affiliation and contact information. Please submit proposals to princeton.sas2013@gmail.com by December 1, 2012. The University will provide for accommodation for two nights and will contribute towards travel expenses.

The organizing committee would like to acknowledge the generous support of Jitish Kallat for the image used above for this year’s workshop.

Sweatopia 1, 2008, 274.3 x 518.2 cm over three panels, Acrylic on canvas.

All images © Jitish Kallat



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