Co-organized and hosted by the Comparative Asian Studies Program at the National University of Singapore with support provided by the Princeton University Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia

We are pleased to announce an open call for applications from researchers from any world region who wish to participate in the inaugural InterAsia Academy, entitled “Integration and Disintegration in InterAsian Perspective.” This event will take place largely online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and various travel restrictions; however, some in-person events may be possible (this will be determined in late 2020 after participants have been selected). In-person events, if any, will be hosted by the Comparative Asian Studies Program at the National University of Singapore (NUS). All academy events will take place between the dates of February 15–28, with the schedule to be finalized based on the availability of the participant pool.

For more than a decade, the SSRC InterAsia Program, working with a larger network of InterAsian partners, has supported innovative research that challenges the territorial fixities of area-studies research without discounting the importance of contextually grounded, place-based knowledge. Program activities have strengthened the understanding of issues and geographies that do not fit neatly into existing divisions of academia or the world, and have created new approaches, practices and opportunities for transregional studies.

The InterAsia Academy—aimed at advanced graduate students and early-career researchers—will build upon this work through an explicit focus on pedagogy, specifically examining the broad theme of “Integration and Disintegration in InterAsian Perspective.” This theme highlights processes of regionalization and re-regionalization that crosses national and other boundaries, building on old histories and creating new geographies. It examines the ways in which interconnected formations across the Asian expanse shape and reshape ecologies, economies and everyday life. In addition, we encourage applications that address issues of gender in relation to each of the topical emphases, particularly in response to some who have posited that InterAsian “subjects” are often male, and that connections are often understood through the movements of “mobile men.” How can histories, knowledge, and practices of integration and disintegration be understood through an explicit focus on gender?

Key topics include:

  • Ecologies – Through this theme, we will explore how InterAsia constitutes a dynamic space of environmental integration and disintegration. How has ecological change been shaped by shifting transregional connections and ruptures, including the movements of people? How, in turn, have changing environmental conditions reshaped InterAsia, and generated new geographical imaginaries? Can we now speak of a distinctively InterAsian environmental humanities, and what are its contours?
  • Infrastructure – From research on ancient hydraulic systems, temple networks, and merchant roads to the study of colonial supply chains, railways, and power grids to contemporary communication lines and wireless networks, research on physical infrastructures has helped transcend the chronological, spatial, and epistemological boundaries that have conventionally divided the study of Asia. Infrastructure is the physical manifestation of state-society relations including expressions of authority, legitimacy, modernity, and progress. In addition, however, infrastructure produces particular types of behavior, notions of belonging, and everyday relationships with the environment. Thus the study of infrastructures includes its phenomenology, discourses, aesthetics, practices, and epistemologies.
  • Legalities – Complex webs of legal interest, jurisdiction, and enforcement shape governance and politics across the countries of the region, including areas such as environmental pollution, trade facilitation, foreign investment, infrastructure building, and the protection of citizen and human rights. This theme will focus on both inherited legal complexities of Asian states (including religious and intellectual traditions, various colonial legacies and post-colonial geographies,) as well as current transnational and cross-jurisdictional flow of practices, norms and actors. Topics may include the creation of new legal infrastructures and architectures (e.g., offshore migrant processing centers), new actors (e.g., global law firms) and new technologies (e.g., cybersecurity, crypto currencies), and the various ways in which such legal systems and norms influence the role of local and global practices of regulation.
  • Religions – Through this theme we will explore the transregional InterAsian movements of religious figures, scholars, practices, and ideas, the establishment of religious institutions and centers of learning, and circulations of different populations and individuals through such institutions and trust networks. This includes various practices of piety, pilgrimage, education, ritual, charity, mutual aid, literary, cultural production, and so on. Through the lens of integration/disintegration we will explore the ways in which these efforts and processes foster, facilitate, or constrain the flows of people, capital, and cultural resources and how these may be coopted, embraced, dismissed or actively discouraged at the regional, national or transnational level. The mobilization of religion and religious networks often feature prominently in countries’ cultural foreign policy and intersect with particular economic and political interests. Other themes that are relevant to this theme include religious architecture, construction of sacred localities and neighborhoods, hospitality industries, securitization of religious practice, diasporic networks and ethnic diversity in the past and present.

The Academy will include keynote lectures, panels, participant presentations, group discussions, and individualized working groups aiming to generate debate and intellectual engagement with these topics while simultaneously offering participants the chance to discuss broader theoretical and methodological issues. A particular focus of the Academy is to address questions related directly to pedagogy and what it means to teach on/through InterAsian research frameworks.

Organizing Committee members include Sunil Amrith (Renu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History, Yale University), Maitrii Aung-Thwin (Convener, Comparative Asian Studies Program, and Deputy Director, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS)) Engseng Ho (Professor of Cultural Anthropology and History, Duke University and Muhammad Alagil Distinguished Visiting Professor, NUS), Srirupa Roy (Professor of State and Democracy in Modern India, Göttingen University), and Seteney Shami (Director, InterAsia Program, SSRC).

Eligibility and Criteria

The Academy invites proposals from researchers in any world region who consider their work to be InterAsian and who are engaged with broader Academy themes. Participants may be advanced graduate students, actively working on their dissertations, or up to five years out of the PhD program in any social science or humanities discipline.

All proposals must be submitted in English and all Academy events will take place in English.

Proposals will be evaluated by a multidisciplinary review committee based on their relevance to the topics, quality, and intellectual merit.

Successful applicants will be required to present on a specific, current project and to participate in online group discussions. Due to the online nature of the event, participants may be required to prepare web-based materials in advance (the Academy organizers will provide assistance as needed).

Detailed eligibility criteria, including what we mean by InterAsia and what this may encompass, can be found on the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions section of our website.

If travel is possible, all travel and convening costs will be covered by the Academy organizers.

For additional inquiries, please contact us at interasia@ssrc.org.

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