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.

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. We aim 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 characterized by 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 insight into how national and global discourse has intersected with and shaped the standardized model of development of Asian Cities. We question conceptualizations of development that presume natural and necessary pathways, and focus instead on thinking critically about the structures and actors supporting or countering its progress.

In order to analyze Asian Cities effectively, we use multidisciplinary—especially historical, anthropological, and geographical—theoretical frameworks in order to present this theme in a comprehensively textured manner. Topics include interpretations of modernity, migration and solidarities, and conceptualizing the city: urban vs rural. Through these topics, we hope to illuminate the many agencies that exist and interact with one another.

Ultimately, we hope to use multiple media and methods to explore the richness and complexity of these trans-regional entities as “symbols” of Asian development and progress.

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