Region Formation in Contemporary South Asia

Region Formation in Contemporary South Asia

York University, Toronto
From - Until
25.11.2009 -
Chilvers, Simon

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to promote discussion of the economic and political significance of regions in the subcontinent. Arguably, contemporary South Asia cannot be fully understood without considering the contradictions of regional social formations and wider structural processes. It can be held that, on the one hand, relationships between different regions are important to study. On the other hand, the internal constitution of a region and the various relationships that underlie it must be appreciated. Today, many important debates in the subcontinent are framed by reference to what might be termed a 'region question'. The region, as it were, manifests itself in (discussions of) everyday practices, as well as forms of consciousness. Given such ubiquity – and yet specificity – theoretical review of 'the region' and the actually existing regional situations of South Asia is overdue.

The conference focuses upon two important observations of contemporary South Asia. The first is that relations of production, exchange and 'kinship' (including those of caste, tribe and gender) continue to have significant spatial variation. Given the many combinations of social relations in the subcontinent, an examination is necessary of the structural processes permitting reproduction of distinctive regional formations. However, the aim is not to simply counterpoise meta-processes, or abstract 'necessary' relations, to place-bound contingencies. Rather, empirically-informed studies are sought of how South Asian livelihoods have become intricately connected to the reproduction of exploitative structures and circuits. Concrete analysis of the different relationships, processes and nodal points of the subcontinent will help scholar-activists to better assess the current struggles and strategies of (pan-)regional social movements.

The second observation is that asymmetry exists between region boundaries and the superimposition of administrative units. The conference is interested in the peculiarities of how regions and state administrative units relate, given the perpetuation of regions and highly geographically uneven development throughout South Asia. Since regional identities have proved so tenacious and important, the relations and processes that facilitate their development and reproduction require discussion. Correctly understanding the different social movements throughout South Asia demanding greater regional autonomy/independence is, arguably, most important. In this respect, the conference seeks to facilitate the development of a historical materialist theory of the formation and persistence of regions that will enable scholar-activists to understand identity and regional movements from a perspective other than from within the limits of rights-based discourses.

The conference is necessarily situated at the confluence of several disciplines. Historical-environmental study skills will be invaluable to unravelling long-term processes that constitute a region, especially the layering of different identities and modes of production over time. However, importantly, a region is not just a space. On the contrary, there is a dynamic of space and society that accords the peoples inhabiting a region with a sense of place. Sociological and literary expertise will thus be required to identify and analyse the cultural material practices that constitute regional spaces into geo-cultural places. Furthermore, the presence of the region in politics has long been a field of inquiry in political science – especially with regard to debates over the constitution of individual states and questions of self-determination.

In light of the above, the organisers call for the submission of abstracts for case studies of South Asian regions. (Studies from other world regions will be considered on comparative/conceptual merit.)

How to participate:
Interested scholars should submit their work address, provisional paper title and one page abstract to the organising committee at

Proposals for special sessions within the conference will be considered by the organising committee.

Delegates employed/sponsored by institutions outside of South Asia will be required to pay a registration fee of 150 USD. Concessions may be granted.

All delegates with accepted papers have the option of staying without charge November 24th to November 28th in clean and comfortable guesthouse accommodation adjacent to the conference venue. (N.B. This applies to South Asian and international delegates alike.)

The opening address will be given by Professor David Seddon, author of many important works on Third World social formations.

The conference website ( will be up-dated with further details.

The conference is organised as an interdisciplinary and politically independent gathering. The organisers are of the opinion that an open and democratic debate is necessary of the issues faced by South Asian populations.

The conference finances will be available for inspection at the close of proceedings. Copies of receipts for all donations and expenditures will be available on request.

Executive organisers are Kumar Sanjay Singh and Simon Chilvers.


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Simon Chilvers
Graduate Program in Geography
York University
M3J 1P3
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