Asian Cities 2017-2018 Executive Team


Shiaoshiao Chen and Tyentyen Chen

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Hello and welcome to INDePth Conference 2018: Asian Cities! We are Shiaoshiao and Tyentyen and we are so happy to share this conference with you. Asian Cities holds personal significance for us, being Chinese and having visited the country and continent many times. Our aim for this conference is to trouble broader conceptions of what “Asian Cities” means, how it is defined, and who is making those definitions or being impacted by them. Thus, the general theme will surround cities and development but we are hoping to go deeper into the lived realities within these spaces and even question what a “city” really is. Through this conference, we hope audience members not only come to appreciate the complexity of this immense region and its deeply rich and diverse cultures, the mechanisms at play in its construction and development, and the experiences of those who actively inhabit there, but to also develop your own critical questions about “progress”, “cities”, “migration”, “urbanization” and “modernity”. We ultimately hope to provide a space for people to engage and think with each other, to debate and critically analyze, and to better understand differences enough that they can be recognized as similarities. We hope to see you there and enjoy attending the conference as much as we and the team have enjoyed organizing it!

Aside from organizing conferences, you will find us studying Socio-Cultural Anthropology, History, and Contemporary Asian Studies. We enjoy activities ranging from taking a walk by the lake shore to practicing the bagpipes at home; our combined passion is food — both making and eating it! We enjoy engaging with divergent ideas that challenge our ways of thinking and understanding how knowledge shapes popular and dominant worldviews; we think that this is the most personally rewarding way to learn!



Anna Aksenovich
Research and Marketing Executive; Workshop Facilitator

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My name is Anna and you will probably see my face a lot during the conference.

Following my interest in Asian culture as well as being exposed to a number of Asian cities myself, whether as a tourist, researcher or an intern, INDePth has instantly caught my eye. There are a number of conventions that circulate through popular media and even academia – highlighting the problems of the developing world, where the aim of INDePth is to challenge these traditional representations of Asian Cities as being overpopulated and homogenous – all subscribing to the Western mode of modernization and development.

As one of the workshop facilitators I am looking forward to have a discussion with you on the variety of topics within the Asian context. As a researcher and presenter myself, my area of focus is rural to urban migration, its consequences and the developmental discourse it is framed in. I will be presenting the preliminary research me and my team have done in Mumbai over the summer, providing both anthropological and political science perspectives on slums redevelopment. In the future, I am hoping to continue with my research in Asia in order to contextualize under-explored and overlooked areas that can provide more depth to our understanding of Asia and its diversity.


Asraf Islam
Research Executive and Workshop Facilitator


Hi, it’s Asraf. I study International Relations and History, and am hoping to get out of university as soon as possible so I can use what little I have learned in actual practice. I have some strong interest in international law, diplomacy, and war journalism, and hope to do something involved in those fields in the future. I joined the INDePth Asian Cities 2018 Conference team because I have focused on eastern and south Asian history during my degree, and wanted to enhance my understanding of Asia’s role in our world today. I hope that this conference will broaden everyone’s understanding of what they believe Asia to be, and that it will provide a safe and comfortable environment to ask questions, engage in discussion, and embrace a diversity of opinions. In my spare time, I like reading, playing board and video games, watching anime, and play sports (especially racquet sports!).


Zhijun (Nina) Zhou
Research Executive and Workshop Facilitator

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Hi, I am a Research and Workshop Facilitator. Throughout the process of preparation for this conference, I am part of the Research group which we are responsible for researching, brainstorming ideas and guest speakers for potential topics. I study History and East Asian Studies, with a particular interest in pre-modern China. While modern East Asia has ignited the world’s attention in an increasing scale, I always remain curious in reading all sorts of information on related topics. And because U of T has such great departments and resources of Asian Studies, I am excited about this conference and I am proud to be part of the team that contribute to refresh our understanding about the concepts of Asian Cities.


Faraz Khoshbakhtian
Research Executive and Workshop Facilitator


I’m a third-year student of Philosophy and Computer Sciences here at University of Toronto. Being a recent immigrant, I understand INDePeth as a medium through which the unnarrated stories of a faraway land become accessible and present here. Being a part of the conference’s research team has been a unique experience in terms the diversity of stories I encountered in the past few months. I hope in the course of the conference people find sameness between themselves and what is usually presented as the Asian other.



Oriana Theo
Logistics, Finance, and Marketing Executive


I am a second-year student majoring in History and Contemporary Asian Studies, with a minor in Political Science. I decided to apply to work for the INDePth Conference because I love learning about Asia and want to encourage others to learn about it as well. I especially like the conference’s goal of challenging accepted notions about development and progress; by doing so we’ll be able to paint a more inclusive picture of Asian cities. I think the theme “Asian Cities” is especially interesting because it is transnational and transregional, so we’ll get to discuss lots of different places and their various stories. My hope is that every person who attends the conference leaves questioning their preconceived ideas about what, and who, makes a city and then apply this questioning mindset to other areas of their life.


Jessie Xue
Logistics and Finance Executive


I’m Jessie, one of the logistics and finance execs for INDePth Conference 2018. Although my study is not in Asian studies, I have always been interested in progress and events in Asia because of my Chinese inheritance. This interest and the encouragement of my friend Tyentyen have lead me to join the planning committee. I have been helping with funding, marketing and logistics of the conference. For the love of food, I look forward to bringing you some non-conventional dishes (both figuratively and literally!). I hope this conference will present Asian Cities in a new angle for you. Something that is very different from what you thought or believed before. And I hope this experience will challenge you to think critically about other events or topics you encounter in the future. Enjoy!


Rachel Tian 
Logistics and Finance Executive; Treasurer


I am a 3rd year student double majoring in Statistics and Economics. The focus on Asian cities this year particularly interests me as they are developing at a pace never before encountered. This unprecedented rate of change brings with Asia transformations framing new expressions of modernity. I hopes this year’s conference will create a platform to challenge traditional notions and offer difference perspectives of Asian cities.


Nicolas DiMarco
Logistics and Finance Executive


Hey everyone! I’m Nicolas, a fourth-year student studying International Relations and Political Science. For this year’s INDePth Conference, I am the logistics and finance executive—responsible for everything from funding to catering! I decided to be a part of this conference because coming from a European background, I’ve always been interested in expanding my Eurocentric horizons and learning about new regions of the world, and their unique customs, traditions and cultures. This year’s theme of “Asian Cities” means a lot to me because it will do exactly that, so I can’t wait for the conference! Overall, if the audience can only take away one thing from the conference, I hope it’s that Asian Cities, like all other cities worldwide, have unique and special identities that merit exploration and consideration. I look forward to seeing you all there!