South Asia Anthropology Group (SAAG) meeting in Edinburgh
The issue of identity has been at the heart of several important political developments and social movements over the past few years in South Asia. In India, critics argue that the rise of the BJP, culminating in the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in 2014, has legitimised a vehement brand of Hindu nationalism, in turn contributing to an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred and an escalation of discrimination and violence against Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and women. In Bangladesh, freedom of speech remains under serious threat as a severe backlash against secularism accounts for violent attacks against writers and bloggers at the hands of radical Islamist groups. In Pakistan, identity based politics are ever present in conflicts based on sectarian, religious and regional divides. Sri Lanka meanwhile continues to embark on a process of national and ethnic reconciliation following a long and bitter civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in the northeast. Nepal, too, has embarked on a new process of political settlement following the peace accord in 2006, contentious politics of identity and federalism and constitutional reform amidst protests from different religious and ethnic minorities. In all instances, there are growing demands for, and promises of, economic growth and development that are coterminous with a shrinking of state provision.
Whilst identity politics seeks to present social categories as behavioural entities, it is clear that considerable effort is required to mobilise groups into political action. Such mobilization also reveals how everyone has multiple identity options. Take the large-scale mobilisation around Dalit rights, particularly in Hyderabad following the suicide of a Dalit PhD scholar and activist and in Gujarat where thousands of Dalits took to the streets to protest attacks by cow-protection vigilantes. Such politics suggests that the BJP is antithetical to Dalit interests, yet political analysts note how many Dalits voted for Modi and the BJP in 2014 - swayed by promises of clean politics and development. Elsewhere, feminist activists and campaigners have highlighted the endemic nature of sexual violence and harassment in campaigns that have been criticized for neglecting the caste contours of such violence.
SAAG 2017, thus, seeks papers that engage with questions of identity formation and the question of whose voices are amplified or silenced in the process. We also call for papers on the less political - more banal - processes of identity that underpin socio-political decisions and engagement across the sub-continent. We invite papers on everyday forms of resistance and how they are organized, navigated and experienced; on contestations within the workplace and exclusionary practices that are tied to gender, caste, class, religion and ethnicity ; on individuals' or groups' interactions with the state and the basis on which claims are made; and on both informal and formal political organisations. In light of concerns around increasing restrictions on the public sphere - in terms of freedoms of expression and assembly - research focused on civil society organisations (CSOs, NGOs) and their effects are also welcome.
The organisers of SAAG 2017 invite a critical and creative engagement with this year's theme and anticipate a wide range of papers exploring how these concepts - identity, politics, and resistance - intersect with each other as well as other issues such as Dalit rights, women's rights, and religion. We hope to provoke debate about present-day developments in South Asia, and how such developments also relate to wider, political developments beyond. As ever, the SAAG format will hinge on the pre-submission of papers which will be presented by discussants who will engage with the papers and raise questions for discussion. We particularly welcome submissions from doctoral researchers, and from those reporting on recent fieldwork.
Deadline for Abstracts: May 31, 2017.
Deadline for Full Papers: 14th August, 2017.
Date of Event: 8th September, 2017.
Email: saagedinburgh2017 [at] gmail.com