Conference “Area Studies’ Futures”
by Claus Bech Hansen, Aizhamal Marat and Catherine Reynolds
The field of Area Studies as traditionally pursued in academia has been broadly criticized, in particular for ethnocentrism, obsolete methods, rigid adherence to fixed geographical ‘areas’, and solidifying regimes of (Western) power and hegemony. Especially since the end of the Cold War, Area Studies have been described as unsuitable for the study of processes related to globalisation, given that the movement of certain people, belongings and ideas rapidly changes the location and nature of borders. The interdisciplinary research network Crossroads Asia, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), was launched in 2011 to react to these challenges. For the past five years, in search of new ways to conduct and position Area Studies scholarship in the 21st century, the network has explored innovative research approaches to Area Studies related to multiple spatial realities, (im-)mobilities and (im-)mobilisation, borders and boundary-making/-weakening, and positionality.
With project culmination in 2016, the Crossroads Asia network is soon hosting its fifth and final International Crossroads Asia Conference, entitled ‘Area Studies’ Futures’, at the Center for Development Research in Bonn on 22-23 September, 2016. Conceived as a forum for sharing novel practices, approaches and empirical findings in Area Studies and related research, the conference will allow a wide range of international scholars to present their work, furthering both theoretical and methodological discussions and also offering insight into the everyday realities and interconnectivity of people living in many parts of the world. Panel themes include: Deconstruction of Western Knowledge and the Category ‘Other’; Shedding Light on Agency and the Social Construction of Space; Exploring Methodological Limits and Possibilities in Area Studies Research; Intersections of Area Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Cold War Studies and Future Studies; and (Re-)Constructing Positionalities in Area Studies Research.
Questions to be addressed during the conference include:
- How do globalisation, digitalisation, urbanisation and migration challenge concepts of ‘areas’ and space?
- How does space intersect with a sense of belonging, and how do spatial constellations shift through time?
- How can Area Studies account for the Anthropocene?
- How can researchers best overcome epistemic hegemonies, ethnocentrism and ‘othering’?
With more than 30 scholars from India, Russia, Serbia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK and beyond, and from various disciplines such as social anthropology, linguistics, human geography, political and social sciences and gender studies, the conference promises to offer not only inter- and post-disciplinarity but also transregional perspectives. Both are crucial to the conceptualization of human interaction, including interdependencies, networks and multi-dimensional spaces. Individual talks will address such topics as, for example: the transforming built environment in Chinese borderlands; politics of belonging in Dubai and Kashmir; the intersections of power dynamics, epistemic cultures and food systems; the ‘un-place’ as the new global localization, and religious piety as articulated through digital media.
Conference participation is free, but interested individuals are asked to register their attendance before 15 September 2016 by sending an e-mail to crossroads(at)uni-bonn.de containing their name, their institute and their email address, with the subject line “Registration for Crossroads Asia Conference 2016”. You can find the conference flyer here.
Background information on Crossroads Asia: Founded in 2011, the Crossroads Asia research network contributes to ongoing debates surrounding scholarship on particular regions in the globalized 21st century. The network encourages and tries to develop new methods of inter-disciplinary Area Studies research, being aware of different power dynamics and structures in knowledge production in academia around the world. Comprised of six research institutions with regional expertise covering Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Northern India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Xinjiang, the network serves as a collaborative platform for researchers from various disciplines and regions of the world interested in Area Studies with critical, comparative and innovative approaches to research. Find more information at: www.crossroads-asia.de.