Space, Capital and Social History in South Asia

CFP: a workshop in Göttingen, June 2010

An international workshop to be held in Göttingen from the 24th to the 26th of June 2010. This is the first of a series of annual workshops that will be organised by the small team of social historians at the newly founded Centre for Modern Indian Studies. We'd be grateful if you responded to this CfP and/or circulated it among colleagues who might be interested.

Call for Papers, International Workshop, 24-26 June 2010, Göttingen, Germany

The Department of History of the newly founded Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen invites proposals for papers to be presented at the workshop from historians and social scientists on the following theme:

Space, Capital and Social History in South Asia

Social space, in a distinctly non-metaphorical and concrete sense, has emerged as a fulcrum of contemporary social transformation and political conflict in South Asia. Some of the themes that have come to prominence are:

  • the deindustrialisation of formerly celebrated ‘Manchesters of the East’ like Ahmedabad and the gentrification of workers’ neighbourhoods like Mumbai’s vast ‘factory village’ Girangaon
  • the relocation of industries and the rapid production of new, transnationally connected landscapes of capital (like that of Gurgaon) brought to life by both ‘informally’ and ‘formally’ employed work forces
  • violent conflicts over land for capital-induced ‘Special Economic Zones’ or schemes of infrastructural 'development'
  • the seemingly irresistible rise of the corporate ‘developer’ and the dynamics of spatial segregation in India’s metropolitan cities

These and other dramatic transformations in contemporary South Asia raise new and urgent questions to the past. The temporal dynamics of social and cultural spaces and the changing patterns of socio-spatial practices have opened out, accordingly, a vigorously expanding field in South Asian studies. However, many writings are confined to (no doubt powerful) symbolic and representational levels of spatial praxis. Material levels are often implicitly considered ‘separate’: ‘other things’ that can be assumed constant in spatial analysis. They are, in many studies, construed as a static ‘backdrop’ rather than examined in their own dynamic and in their interdependence with other spheres of social and cultural praxis.

This workshop seeks to create a forum for younger as well as more experienced researchers from various disciplines, including history, sociology, social anthropology and geography, to explore fresh, critical perspectives on the history of social space in South Asia. Our point of departure is that whoever speaks of social space in modern South Asia should not be silent on capital and the historically differentiated complex of social relationships inhering it.

Proceeding from this assumption, a wide range of historical as well as contemporary themes and problems come into view on which we invite proposals for contributions. Among these themes and problems are the following:

  • the instability of spaces of capital, the phenomenon of ‘deindustrialization’ and patterns of industrial relocation
  • the development of bounded industrial spaces (including plantations, labour camps, mining and railway settlements, steel towns and SEZs)
  • spatial relationships between households and sites of industrial production
  • spaces of capital and labour as sites of cultural production
  • tendencies of segmentation, polarisation and exclusion in urban space (according to gender, religion, ethnicity or class)
  • corporate interests, the state and the process of spatial planning
  • the property market and its regulation (both urban and rural)
  • the social history of land acquisition for industrial or infrastructural projects
  • changing policies of ‘mass housing’, ‘slum clearance’ and of the ‘policing’ of space
  • transformations in the production of built environment and its quotidian appropriation
  • changing relationships between villages and cities
  • circuits and economies of labour migration (both internal and transterritorial)
  • transport and communication networks and rhythms of quotidian mobility
  • the development of spatial strategies of resistance by social and political movements

Proposals for papers (including an abstract of maximum 1,000 words) should be emailed to [mailto][/mailto] by 8 January 2010. The selection will be concluded by 15 January. The papers should be submitted electronically by 15 May 2010. A limited number of travel bursaries is available for participants based in South Asia and for research students based in Europe.

Dr. Ravi Ahuja
Professor of Modern Indian History
Centre for Modern Indian Studies | University of Göttingen Weender Landstr. 14 | 37073 Göttingen | Germany
Phone: +49 551 3910720
Fax: +49 322 224 483 79
Email: [mailto][/mailto]
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