ZiF Workshop

Shaping Asia/s. Connectivities, Comparisons, Collaborations

Date: 6 - 7 February 2018
Convenors: Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (Bielefeld, GER), Christiane Brosius (Heidelberg, GER)

Over the last two decades, growing interconnections among different Asian locations and the broader forces of globalization have brought sweeping changes in the region, drawing places after places into the "grip of worldly encounter" (Tsing 2005). These come to light in academic, economic or political alliances. Due to new media technologies, the changing demands of capitalist production and labor markets, and fluctuating understanding of politics and fabrics of public spheres and subcultures there is an amazingly rich traffic of people and ideas that contribute to the shaping of Asia, i.e. to processes comprising the (ever changing) notions and practices of exchange and connectivity as well as the dynamics of boundary crossing and blurring, molded by new understandings of belonging and place-making – but also distinction, dissonance or dissent.

Asia has increasingly attained 'global prominence' in the landscape of the new millennium, with Asian leaders embracing the notion of an 'Asian dream' (versus that of the alleged 'American dream' inscribed with occidentalist undertones). Economic growth, scientific and technological innovation, metropolitan development, and artistic production are as striking as the magnitude of climate change, conflicts and rebellion as well as an accentuation of social inequality. The scholars invited to this workshop reflected on key developments in the Asian region, especially in the areas of education, welfare, health, public sphere as well as on the ways new socio-spatial constellations – such as the China-triggered OBOR ('One Belt one Road'-initiative) – and the question how these are negotiated in transnational contexts. Likewise, studying the entangled histories of Asia in the world is considered as crucial. This conceptual approach, argue Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka and Christiane Brosius (Heidelberg), the speakers of the network and organisers of this ZiF-conference, also supported by the DFG, will help to trace connectivities, to compare and to engage in collaborations across epistemic communities and thus enhance our ability to adequately understand past, present and future processes of shaping Asia.

The workshop connected the reflection on research methodologies to the question of how Asian cultures and societies are, and have been formed. However, the initiative does not intend to consider 'Asia' as passive in this process but equally and actively 'shaping' her nature and boundaries, imagined as well as political and geophysical. It invited participants to focus on actors, ideas and practices that have been evolving in Asian societies, not only through processes of mutual observations, exchanges, and adaptations, but also of boundary-drawing and conflict. Thereby, 'giving shape' was understood as a participative, multi-directional process: for instance, being member of a society means engaging in forming its outlook, conceptualizing the desired forms of the own world, conceiving and involving in different modes of action. 'Shaping' entails different modalities of governance as giving form to society and polity. Being acted upon instigates re-actions, tacit dissent and overt opposition. 'Shaping' also stands for the identification and framing of "burning issues" – both within academic research and in societal practice. 'Shaping' is in any case a creative act of knowledge production, whether intentionally or not, manifesting power-structures and tensions of diverse kinds.

By engaging in a de-centered, multiperspectival and transregional research framework this workshop was particularly attentive to the connectivities and dissonances configuring Asia and its position in the world. Challenging centre-periphery models of knowledge hierarchies, participants explored and discussed new spatial-political-cultural constellations in contemporary Asia (in its plural and pluralist qualities) while remaining equally reflexive on how these arrangements unfolding on a global scale with varied regional, local and national ramifications alter the scholarly practice of creating academic knowledge. Therefore, the main challenge of this workshop was to simultaneously engage in three distinct but interconnected fields: first, reflecting on tools for grasping the dynamic configurations in Asia; second, seeking to overcome the far-reaching compartmentalisation of research fields and of academic communities in the process of ever accelerating knowledge production, and third, exploring novel research fields and calling for methodological innovation through collaboration – to strengthen academic exchange between partners from different Asian regions and their colleagues.

Conference Programme

Noorman Abdullah (Singapur, SIN), Christoph Antweiler (Bonn, GER), Verena Blechinger-Talcott (Berlin, GER), Thorsten Bonacker (Marburg, GER), Radu Carciumaru (New Delhi, IND), Claudia Derichs (Marburg, GER), Patrick Eisenlohr (Göttingen, GER), Aziz Elmuradov (Bielefeld, GER), Corinne Flacke-Neudorfer (Bonn, GER), Antje Flüchter (Bielefeld, GER), Martin Fuchs (Erfurt, GER), Roland Hardenberg (Frankfurt am Main, GER), ?va Rozália Hölzle (Bielefeld, GER), Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Bremen, GER), Ute Hüsken (Heidelberg, GER), Riho Isaka (Tokio, JPN), Monica Juneja (Heidelberg, GER), Alexandra Kaasch (Bielefeld, GER), Gudrun Lachenmann (Bielefeld, GER), Antje Linkenbach-Fuchs (Erfurt, GER), Chunrong Liu (Kopenhagen, DEN), Kelvin Low (Singapur, SIN), Davlatbegim Mamadshoeva (Bielefeld, GER), Marius Meinhof (Bielefeld, GER), Barbara Mittler (Heidelberg, GER), Daniel Münster (Heidelberg, GER), Emil Nasritdinov (Bishkek, KGZ), Nina Nessel (Heidelberg, GER), Minh T.N. Nguyen (Bielefeld, GER), Dhruv Raina (New Delhi, IND), Ursula Rao (Leipzig, GER), Birgitt Röttger-Rössler (Berlin, GER), Conrad Schetter (Bonn, GER), Judith Schlehe (Freiburg i.Br., GER), Nadja-Christina Schneider (Berlin, GER), Marko Scholze (Frankfurt am Main, GER), Pujo Semedi (Yogyakarta, INA), Anja Senz (Heidelberg, GER), Thomas Stodulka (Berlin, GER), Akio Tanabe (Tokio, JPN), Sahana Udupa (München, GER), Andreas Vasilache (Bielefeld, GER)

Please direct questions concerning the organisation of the workshop to Trixi Valentin at the Conference Office. Questions regarding scientific content and contributions should be directed to the organizers.

Tel: +49 521 106-2769
Fax: +49 521 106-152769
E-Mail: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de