CfP: South Asia from the Lens of Student Politics

Call for papers, deadline 1 April 2018


Studies on student movements in various countries acknowledge the leading role taken by elite universities in the social sciences (Altbach 1991; Zhao 2004; Luescher‑Mamashela 2016; Ketchley and Biggs 2016). Simultaneously, in the West sections of students do address the neoliberal turn in higher education which promote the introduction of tuition fees as well as cuts to public funding (Della Porta, forthcoming). While these trends may also hold true in the South Asian context (Martelli 2017), a variety of social movements in the region, revolving around both material and identity issues have also been fuelled by marginalised sections of the educated youth (Garalytė 2016), thus corroborating the evidence of a plebeian upsurge in South Asian politics (Varshney 2000). 

Thirty years after the last major scholarly account on student politics in South Asia (Hazary 1987), the seminar will explore the specificity of everyday student and youth politics in the subcontinent. The seminar will re-examine the validity of the claim that student politics entered in cycles of ideological depoliticisation in the post-independence context (Shah 2004). Participants will also engage with the argument that student politics serves as a spring board for prospective political leadership (Altbach 1970, 1992), making universities hotbeds of party and muscle politics (Ruud 2010) and places for the reproduction of various forms of dominance (Jeffrey 2010). Importantly, the seminar will aim at better understanding how student politics negotiate questions of gender, caste, language, ethnicity, community and class identities. 

From a theoretical standpoint, the seminar will focus on South Asian universities as places of “contentious politics” (Tilly 2006) and “agonistic pluralism” (Mouffe 1999, 2013), where peaceful demonstrations go hand in hand with political violence and where students mobilise and negotiate divides on social, economic and status lines. While acknowledging the importance of demographic factors of the family in shaping students’ political endeavours (Kumar 2014), the seminar will also examine the relevance of specific campus-based cultures as distinct political phenomena.

All in all, the papers in the seminar will address a broad range of research questions through acknowledging the regional and national variability of movements across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. On what issues and identities students mobilise in South Asia? What is the visibility and influence of student politics on society and political process? To which extent student politics is tied to party politics and broader socio-political networks? What means and methods of mobilisation are employed by student activists? How student politics is affected by and reacts to neo-liberalism, consumerism and globalisation?

Submission guidelines

The seminar will provide a platform for scholars conducting empirical research on student and youth politics and will seek to better understand student and youth politics in a larger comparative perspective. Depending on interest and on the consistency and quality of contributions, selected papers from participants will be submitted for publication as part of a special issue in SAMAJ. The seminar will be organised in October 2018 at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris. 

Please send your abstract and contact details to Jean-Thomas Martelli ( or Kristina Garalytė ( by the deadline of April 1st, 2018. The preliminary date of the seminar is  October 2018  but we are yet to finalise the exact day. It will take place at the Center for South Asian Studies (Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud – CEIAS) at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des hautes études en sciences sociales – EHESS) in Paris.

In the wake of the seminar participants are invited to submit an article for publication in SAMAJ. We aim at publishing five to eight contributions in the course of 2019. Manuscripts should be sent for peer review process  in December 2018. Please note that submitting to SAMAJ is a required condition in order to participate to the foregoing seminar.

Also, we are pleased to inform you that we have secured limited funding. Therefore, we might be able to provide a small honorarium to participants. However, be aware that we will probably not be able to cover your travelling expenses in their entirety. We are in the process of requesting additional funding but at this stage we cannot guarantee the issue of our application. We kindly invite you to request your research institution to cover expenses to the seminar.

Guest editors and seminar conveners

  • Kristina Garalytė (Lecturer in Indian Anthropology and Hindi language, Vilnius Institute of Asian and Transcultural Studies, Research fellow, Center of Oriental Studies, Vilnius University, Lithuania):
  • Jean-Thomas Martelli (Post-doctoral fellow, CERI, Sciences Po Paris, France):