Asian Cities Conference 2018

INDePth Conference 2018: Asian Cities

INDePth (Interrogating Notions of Development and Progress) is an award-winning
annual student-run conference hosted by the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto, in affiliation with the Contemporary Asian Studies Student Union. Our goal is to enable students to work together to better understand economic and social developments in the regional context of Asia. In 2017, INDePth presented the theme of South Asia for the first time and was awarded “Event of the Year Award” by the University of Toronto Student’s Union.

This year we would like to propose Asian Cities as the INDePth Conference theme. Asian
Cities are often portrayed as hyper-developed spaces primed for intensive economic growth and purported to deliver a new level of societal development. Current narratives present the development of Asian Cities as a uniform and standardized model; that these spaces across the continent represent a similar type of progress. Through our conference, we hope to challenge these notions and offer a more holistic view of these living and breathing spaces. To showcase the transformative, evolving subjectivities and experiences of those who actively inhabit, build, and create these cities.

Asian Cities are viewed as nearly futuristic and wealthy entities, but in fact carry huge
social, economic, and political inequalities. The dominant narratives surrounding these cities focus on their growth and prosperity, giving them an almost “omnipresent” quality that renders the continuing social, structural, political, cultural and historical legacies along with these cities’ inhabitants “invisible”. We hope that through our conference, attendees gain an insight into how national and global discourse have shaped the standardized development of Asian Cities as a “natural” and “necessary” process. To question these conceptualizations and to think critically about the structures and actors supporting or countering its progress.

In order to analyze Asian Cities effectively, we hope to use multidisciplinary–with an
emphasis on historical, anthropological, and geographical–theoretical concepts frameworks in order to present this theme in a more comprehensive manner. Potential topics include cities as metaphors for modernity; marginalization and inequalities; anthropological, geographical, and historical reinterpretations of cities; and city subjectivities. Through these topics, we hope to illuminate the many agencies that exist and interact with one another.

Ultimately, we hope to use multiple mediums to explore the richness and complexity of
these trans-regional entities which are “symbolisms” of Asian development and progress.

Shiaoshiao Chen and Tyentyen Chen
Co-Chairs, INDePth 2017-2018