INDePth 2017: Worlding South Asia Beyond Borders

INDePth is proud to announce that South Asia is the focus of its 2017 annual conference: Worlding South Asia Beyond Borders. Participants will engage with how South Asian worlds are simultaneously constructed through the human imagination and physically materialized with uneven processes of modernity. We aim to emphasize South Asia as a conceptual site of research that extends beyond national borders and traditional ‘area studies’.

 

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Skyscraper City View Dhaka at Panthapath More by Nasir Khan

 

 

Key Question: How do South Asian ‘worlds’ challenge ‘third world’ imaginaries?

Dominant discourse within mainstream agencies such as the World Bank and IMF, domestic national programs and academic discourse imagine South Asia as an active site of intervention. Discourse that is embedded into the imagining and practice of institutions characterize ‘developing’ space as ‘backward’, ‘lacking’ or otherwise systematic ‘standard’. Participants will engage with how such South Asian Worlds are simultaneously constructed through the human imagination and physically materialized through uneven processes of development practice. We aim to emphasize South Asia as a conceptual site of research that extends beyond national borders and traditional ‘area studies’.

South Asia is often dominated by ‘developing’ connotations or the prevailing over-emphasis on India. The region is imagined as a periphery to modernity, the latter only accessible for ‘developed’ spatial and temporal ‘worlds’. However, what are the implications of dividing geographical regions in categories of “global north” versus “global south”, “developed” versus “developing”, or “first world” versus “third world”? What are the implications for people living in these imagined and material ‘third world’ spaces?

This conference does not attempt to speak for the living bodies in the region. We recognize the spatial distance of South Asia from Canada and acknowledge the limitations of academic analysis to ‘study’ and ‘know’ the region in an abstract and conceptual manner. It is with this in mind we proceed with the conference and discussion in March to open and encourage dialogue on the region.

INDePth aims to facilitate dialogue in order to re-imagine South Asia as a living, breathing entity consisting of a population of over 1.7 billion. Studying the region as an active research site helps to contextualize larger ‘Asian’ and ‘global’ discourses. By doing so, we look at the ways in which the concept of Worlding challenges notions of ‘third world’ development discourse and helps to understand the region.

 

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Girl with Kite, India by Simon Christen – iseemooi

 

“Worlding” Processes

Gayatri Spivak first examines “Worlding” as a colonial process which aimed to represent colonies as an “other space”, that was distant, backwards and thus inferior and able to be exploited. Situating the native world in these terms plays a role in the ways in which South Asia has been marginalized and dominated. However, “worlding” has also taken on alternate meanings and possibilities in the contemporary context. Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong, in the context of urban developments in Asian cities, define “worlding” as projects and practices that move away from universalizing theories and concepts and remaps relationships of power. Worlding, rather than a western process of spatial imagining, becomes the ways in which post-colonial spaces reinvent themselves in the global world and challenge existing norms and standards. We utilize parts of their work in addition to reworking worlding in the context of our conference.

Worlding is a transnational, interdisciplinary flow that challenges the category of ‘third world’ within development studies. The flow of bodies and ideas remap the category of ‘South Asia’ as a process of constant change and flux. Rather than re-inscribe such categories we seek to disrupt and rupture such categories. Worlding at its core can be interpreted as social engineering of physical space through the prism of ‘South Asia’. Worlding is a different way of seeing or visualizing or materializing space in which living bodies are central to worlding as we have interpreted it. We attempt to rewrite the script of discourse in how the region has been and continues to be framed by development through power.

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