Workshop — Conviviality beyond the Urban Centre: Theorizing the “Marginal Hub”



WORKSHOP DIRECTORS:

Magnus Marsden
Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Sussex Asia Centre, University of Sussex
M.Marsden@sussex.ac.uk

Madeleine Reeves Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester Madeleine.Reeves@manchester.ac.uk

WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS:

Itty Abraham, Associate Professor, Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
“Poaching as Conviviality in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands”

Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia, Lecturer, Religious Studies, Grinnell College and Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Grinnell College
“Alternative Geographies of Global Connection: The Making and Unmaking of Conviviality among Buddhist Hubs of the Tea Horse Road”

Thomas Chambers, Teaching Fellow, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
“Scaling Conviviality: The Spatial Economics of a ‘Marginal Hub’”

Yasmin Cho, Postdoctoral Fellow, Anthropology, University of Michigan
“Purposefully Marginal: Gender, Wilderness, and (Dis)connectivity in Tibetan Buddhist Revivalism in Post-Mao China”

Nellie Chu, Postdoctoral Researcher, Center for Transregional Research Network, University of Göttingen
“Displacement and Maternal Longing: The Production of Jiagongchang as Marginal Hubs of Subcontracted Labor in Guangzhou, China”

Till Mostowlansky, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
“Faraway siblings, so close: marginality, connectivity and mediated conviviality across the Pakistan-Tajikistan frontier”

Jacob Nerenberg, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of Toronto
“The Terminal Economy: Frontier Dreams and Confrontational Gathering in Highlands Papua (Indonesia)”

Anton Nikolotov, PhD Student, Central Asian Studies, Humboldt University and Frei University
“Volatile shashlyk and shopfloor convivialities in a peripheral market in Moscow: skills, emotionality and exchange”

Malini Sur, Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
“Garrison Conviviality: Longing at the Nation’s Margins”

Stacey Van Vleet, Visiting Lecturer, History, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley
“Medicine, Monasteries, and Scholarly Networks between Qing China and the Tibetan Buddhist World”

CALL FOR WORKSHOP PAPERS:

How might we conceive of places of encounter with difference beyond the major centers that have dominated the study of urbanism in Asia? What forms of social interaction are to be found in such sites? And how are such hubs connected to one another and to major urban centers? This workshop seeks to answer these questions by foregrounding the empirical and conceptual exploration of what we call ‘marginal hubs’ in diverse Asian contexts.

By ‘marginal hubs’ we denote sites that may be institutionally or geographically remote from historic centers of urban sociality or political power, but which are, or have been, places of interaction between people, things, and ideas from diverse backgrounds. A non-exhaustive list of such sites might include border markets, caravanserais, army bases, peri-urban container camps, madrassas, ports, or the Soviet-era “village of urban type” in which workers of diverse linguistic and confessional backgrounds were posted to work in a single factory or mine. During the workshop we will explore the modes of social interaction that are to be found in such hubs, the forms of extraction and violence by which they may be characterized in the present or past, as well as the distinct forms of sociality or conviviality that may shape social life within and around them. We enquire what role such hubs might play in the emergence of new cultural expressions (for instance, in music, in manners and etiquette, in rituals of politeness and hospitality, in food and consumption, in dress and clothing) and the degree to which the forms of sociability found in such hubs might be traced to settings beyond.

The workshop proceeds from a recognition that while there has been a flourishing of literature on urban life in Asia on the one hand, and on borders, frontiers and rural margins on the other, we know comparatively little about those forms of sensibility and sociability that emerge in hubs that may be remote from, or peripheral to, traditional urban centers. By inviting historically and ethnographically informed papers that study ‘marginal hubs’ in diverse Asian settings, we seek to diversify and unsettle the category of the ‘Asian urban’ and to draw attention to forms of non-elite mobility that link diverse Asian hubs, including the movement of soldiers, traders, construction workers, members of religious orders, domestic workers, and engineers. We invite contributions from junior and senior scholars from anthropology, history, geography and allied fields that draw upon a close empirical analysis of hub(s) in one or more Asian setting. We particularly welcome papers that speak to questions of connectivity, durability or comparability by engaging one or more of the following questions:

  • In what ways are marginal hubs connected both to one another and to major urban centers? What forms (infrastructural, imaginary, familial, personal) do such connections take? Are such marginal hubs dependent upon urban centers or do they exist in parallel to them? Are there regular forms of symbiosis and mutual dependency between them?
  • In what ways is it possible to historicize hubs in the margin? Are marginal hubs that apparently emerge almost overnight (e.g. container markets) actually informed by longer histories? How do hubs change through time, and what temporal scales might be helpful in thinking about this: linearity, cycles, stop-start transformations? In what ways do marginal hubs from the past (e.g. caravanserais, military bases, or border markets) maintain a place in the life of local communities even after decline? Has the state found it easier to suppress such hubs or to harness them?
  • Does the particular type of flow with which a hub is connected influence the nature of its dynamics, or is it possible to recognize similarities and parallels across apparently different kinds of marginal hub? For example, are hubs or religious learning different from or comparable to hubs of trade and commerce?