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Conference on Structural Transformation (2015)

On 20–22 May 2015, SASNET successfully organised an international conference on ”South Asia in Transformation: World of Slums, Global Power Houses or Utopias?" with the sub-title ”Migration, Labour, and Family Changes in a Dynamic Region”. The three-day conference, generously funded by the Crafoord Foundation, Forte and the Swedish Research Council, was held in Lund.

More than 70 researchers from Europe and South Asia turned up for theconference that consisted of seven panels, each one led by eminent researchers. The theme of the panels varied from ”Urbanization and Social Sustainability”, to ”Ethnicity, Religion and Changing Caste Relations”, ”Changes in Family and Household”, ”Migration, Environment and Social Sustainability”, ”Governance in South Asia”; ”Changing Labour Markets”and ”Structural Transformation and Social Conflicts”. 
The conference had managed to attract four eminent keynote speakers, namely Prof. Abram de Swaan from University of Amsterdam; Prof. Rajni Palriwala from University of Delhi (the two of them on the photo to the right);  Prof. Gita Sen from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore; and Prof. Ruth Kattumuri from London School of Economics.

Travel grants to South Asian scholars

The networking was intense with a large continent of young, promising researchers from South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – presenting their papers along with Scandinavian colleagues. SASNET had given travel grants to no less than 30 young South Asian researchers.
The conference aimed to explore the impact of the on-going structural transformation in South Asia, in which large sections of the population are gradually moving from the agricultural sector into other sectors of the economy and/or geographical areas, mainly urban areas. These processes include urbanization, the growth of a new middle class, and increasing national and transnational migration. 
The purpose of the conference was to explore the social consequences of the transformation of South Asian societies (and by implication, the world). Structural transformations produce new opportunities and risks as job possibilities and wealth are created and redistributed unevenly. This may lead to the marginalization of some groups as well as social conflicts.

Comparative studies encouraged

The aim of this conference was also to map the social impact of South Asia’s structural transformation so far, with specific reference to changes in labour migration patterns and in the composition of the care economy of families and households.
Each of these aspects is often studied in isolation despite the fact that they are deeply interrelated. Furthermore, the conference explored interrelated social and economic aspects of sustainability simultaneously and targeted a process whose outcomes will be felt across the world, given the sheer population size of South Asia. For global sustainability purposes, it is crucial to map the current state of affairs and explore different development possibilities and scenarios for this region. Papers that compared South Asia with other regions were encouraged.
The conference was introduced by SASNET acting director Lars Eklund, after which Jonas Hafström, the newly appointed Chair of the Board of Lund University, held an inspired inaugural speech.
Professor Gita Sen from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India (and Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University) was the first keynote speaker, giving an appreciated presentation, entitled ”Social inequality as a barrier to growth and poverty reduction: South Asian dilemmas”.

More keynote addresses

On Day 1, Wednesday 20th May, a second keynote lecture was held in late afternoon. This time it was Professor Rajni Palriwala from University of Delhi who spoke about ”Trajectories of Desire: Reflections on Marriage, Social Change and the State in India”. Being a public lecture it also attracted many people from outside the conference.

Then followed an optional guided tour of Lund city with Lars Lundberg, renowned for his entertaining but still true to facts way of presenting history. In the nice sunny weather, Lars brought the 40-odd people who turned up outside the Cathedral, for a walk in historical quarters centred around the Lundagård park. Ending bythe University main building, the White House, Lars Eklund made a complimentary visit to the Concocation Hall inside the university building possible. Carin Brenner, Chief of Protocol Officer at Lund University, happened to pass by and being an old aquaintance of Lars, she was kind enough to open up the auditorium, with its wonderful interior, popular to photograph for the South Asian visitors.

Thursday morning started with yet another keynote presentation, this time by legendary Professor Abram de Swaan from University of Amsterdam. He spoke about ”Are Poor People Enough of a Nuisance? Changing Elite Perceptions of the Poor on the National and the Global Scale”, and met a receptive audience in a crowded hall.

The rest of Thursday was then devoted to panels, and most of them were actually finished by evening, well in time for the gala dinner at Tegnérs Restaurant.
After the buffet meal, a Swedish folk dance troupe, Studenternas Folkdanslag, performed with a half an hour dance programme, rounded up by leading the conference participants into a long dance, very much appreciated,The programme for the final day, Friday 22nd May, also started with a keynote presentation, by Professor. Ruth Kattumuri from London School of Economics. She spoke about ”Two dollars-a-day Population and Love's Labour's Gained”, a presentation filled with statistical information about India.

After her presentation the stage was opened for all the four keynote presenters, for an interesting round table discussion, moderated by former SASNET director, Professor Staffan Lindberg, Lund University. Besides their conversation, Staffan also invited representatives of the seven panels that had been held, for them to summarize the results of each panel.

Finally, the conferece convener Lars Eklund thanked the keynote speakers, the panel chair persons, the steering committee planning for this conferece for more than a year – Anna LindbergOlle FrödinAndreas JohanssonLubna Hawwa and Jacco Visser – and the five student assistants (Rubana MusharratMaria JäppinenSixten LundqvistLiz Kiziukiewicz and Phu Doma Lama) that made the smooth functioning of the conference possible. They were all given gifts to remember Lund University and the successful conference being held.