The network Shaping Asia is a joint initiative of Bielefeld University and Heidelberg University: Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius, the professor of Visual and Media Anthropology at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) and Prof. Dr. Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka, Chair of Social Anthropology at Bielefeld University, are the speakers of this network that started in spring 2017.
This initiative brings together scholars from the Humanities and Social Sciences working in and on different regions of Asia (including Asia’s diasporas). The aim is to establish a platform for generating collaborative projects geared at grasping past, present and future dynamics in Asian societies and cultures. These collaborative endeavours are expected to reach beyond national boundaries and cultural compartments. Using ‘Shaping Asia’ as a key trope, we propose that it is fruitful to examine the shaping processes - captured in synchronic and diachronic dimensions - that contribute to various notions of Asia as well as practices in the region. For this, diverse agents, temporalities and points of venture must be considered. These will be understood in their plural and pluralist qualities.
Such a relational approach may include Asia’s geophysical ‘contact zones’ (e.g. within Asia as much as, for instance, with Africa or Europe) and transregional mobilities (e.g. triggered by education, changing labour conditions or protest and activism). It can also add value to a critical rethinking of area studies, and to a discussion on the formats needed, and concepts repositioned to further strengthen relations between the ‘systematic’ and the ‘small’ disciplines. Researchers will engage in designing research strategies and projects that allow for synergetic and transboundary approaches towards various ways in and through which ‘Asia’ has been imagined and altered, politicised and legitimized. This shall be done by means of comparison, the tracing of connectivities (including rupture and friction) and by enhancing collaborations driven by a commitment to interdisciplinarity.