Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on the Middle East, South Asia and Africa
Thursday, April 15 to Saturday, April 17, 2010
Proposals due January 5, 2010
Hosted by the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) at Columbia University
The discipline that was once called "Oriental Studies" has been divided up in various ways in today's university. Post-colonial literature has a foothold in the English department, history departments have by and large stopped confusing "European history" with "world history," and of course the area studies departments with venerable names like Near Eastern Studies or South Asian Languages and Civilizations have taken up an array of new methodologies from other departments. Several universities have begun expanding their African and South Asian studies offerings under the umbrella of "Global Studies." This conference is concerned not with "the death of the discipline" as so many others have been, but rather with the diversity of the disciplines. We will survey this through student presentations, two faculty discussion panels, and a keynote address by an influential scholar.
What sorts of research does this multi-disciplinary institutional framework help scholars of the non-West pursue, and what kinds of research does it hinder? Is there a difference, for example, between studying the history of the Middle East from within a history department or from within an area studies department? In this conference, we hope to explore some of the broad themes that can be fruitfully researched through a variety of disciplines:
- Exchange – Where can exchange take place? Are ideas, practices and texts like commodities? Is a relationship of exchange necessarily symbiotic or can one side really take without giving or give without taking?
- Circulation – How do ideas and cultural practices move? How do repetitive movements of groups, for example, religious pilgrims, shape consciousness? How have the Indian Ocean and overland caravan routes linked Africa, the Middle East and South Asia?
- Borders and Frontiers – What forms can a border take besides the modern political boundary? Is there a frontier mindset on every border?
We invite graduate students to present 25 minute papers dealing with South Asia, the Middle East and/or Africa. While any topic and disciplinary focus will be considered, preference will be given to papers that address one of the themes outlined above. We will help you find (inexpensive or free) lodging in New York during the conference but at this time we do not have funds to provide travel grants.
Please submit a proposal of no more than 300 words to CUgradconf@gmail.com by January 5, 2010. All submissions will be read by graduate students representing each of the three regions with a variety of disciplinary interests. Names and affiliations will be removed from the submissions during the evaluation process.