Conference on Inter-Asian Connection II: Singapore - Workshop Themes

1) Transnational Knowledge Economies

Knowledge economies are associated with recent globalization and Asian circulations. Generated by high levels of investment in education, they are often articulated in transnational networks that are dependent on multi-nationals, out-sourcing and off-shoring. Knowledge economies thus reflect the changing face of capitalism in Asia which seems to intensify existing patterns of labor and migration while opening up new dimensions relating to the economy and infrastructure. Possible research foci include:

  • The changing institutional landscape of higher education, research and scientific knowledge production
  • Inter-Asian collaboration and competition in knowledge production
  • Labor hierarchies within knowledge intensive sectors, nationally and internationally
  • Labor hierarchies between the knowledge intensive sector and other sectors: how are high-tech sectors sustained by low-end service industries symbiotically as central parts of the new urban ecology?

2) Translocal Trust Networks, Religion and Law

This workshop explores how religion, trust networks and law are intertwined in a transnational Asian context. This includes examining how religious groups and trust networks extended across borders (variously defined) both historically and in contemporary times and how systems of trans-local legal norms and religious ideas and practices have served to integrate modes of social, contractual, and diplomatic interaction across Asia. Specific issues could include:

  • How long distance trust networks facilitate the development of business and social enterprises
  • The changing geographies of transnational religions and religious networks
  • The impact of colonial and post-colonial legal regimes on the formation of trust networks
  • How trust networks evade or supplement legal regimes (for civil or uncivil ends)

3) Urban Ecologies in Asia’s Cities

This workshop should bring together scholars of environmental questions and urban experiences. The rapid transformation of Asia in recent decades stretches the resilience of cities and the ecological integrity of the urban form in the region. Building on strong traditions of political ecology research, this workshop focuses on how, as cities take new shape today, they leave an unprecedented ecological imprint on the countryside around them and on increasingly displaced populations. If the ecology of the city is frayed and fragmented by urban sprawl and incessant redevelopment, the urban environment is strained by pollution, resource scarcity, and public health hazards. Yet, the city is home to rising aspirations and conflicts among disparate groups that imagine their futures in this unstable urban ecology. Topics to be explored could include:

  • How natural resource claims are forged, appealed, and mediated in urban contexts
  • How such claims – be they to ‘open space,’ water, or land – resonate with questions of citizenship, civility, informality, equity, and social strife
  • The changing realms of urban expertise, such as urban planning, architecture, hazardous waste management, and public health engineering
  • Historically shaped moments of encounter and contest between various urban actors and their impact on the nature, environmental sustainability, and political economy in Asia’s urban spaces

4) Security and Insecurity

This workshop investigates the historical and contemporary dynamics of “security” and “insecurity” in Asia. Taking an interdisciplinary approach that goes beyond the paradigms of security studies and international relations, the papers in this workshop should examine how political, economic, cultural, and social changes in the region affect definitions, paradigms and experiences of insecurity and security at the level of institutions, ideologies, communities and everyday practices. The workshop will also explore the intersection of the international, the regional, the national and the local in understandings and impacts of various (expanding and contracting) global notions of security/insecurity such as “human security,” “food security,” “environmental security,” “virtual security” and so on. Papers should look at how Asia figures in such global discussions and policies as well as how it appropriates/reshapes/reflects such discussions and policies. Research topics could include:

  • “Crises” and “Panics” in Asia
  • Inter-Asian threats and cooperation
  • Financial securities/insecurities
  • The governance and infrastructures of security: apparatuses, secrecy, communication

5) Migration: Mobilities and Displacements

In congruence with re-imaginings of the world as one of flows and connections and characterized by a time-space compression, this workshop focuses on re-examining migration patterns across Asia and building upon the promise of the concept of “transnational migration” in helping to understand the simultaneity of living in two (or more) locations. The study of diasporas (political, trade, ethnic) is also central to this workshop. The following issues could be examined:

  • Linkages between different types of mobility and displacement and going beyond the categories of “forced” and “voluntary”
  • How migrants live ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time and engage in the economic, political, social and cultural context of both the sending and receiving countries, as well as some others in between
  • Cultures of mobility and their role in shaping diverse processes including political participation, notions of citizenship, and cultural production
  • The role of new communications technologies in enabling and maintaining these new relations as well as in creating virtual mobility in cases of constraints, incarcerations and the absence of physical freedoms to move

6) Old Histories, New Geographies

This workshop examines “re-regionalization” in Asia, that is the ways in which emergent powerful and meaningful units structure new modes of governance, economic transactions, social relations and individual and collective subjectivities. Re-regionalization is produced through, and in turn produces, new kinds of long-distance connections of exchange, reciprocity and communication. Within this broad conception, the focus is more specifically on the following:

  • Revisiting standardized histories in order to reveal previously hidden connections, alternative geographies and new periodizations
  • Identifying emergent connections that links diverse parts of Asia in ways that contest and reconfigure borders and boundaries
  • Examining waterways and landmasses and the ways in which they bring Asia to the world and the world to Asia
  • Inter-Asian connections that produce local, national and regional histories and geographies