Tracking Notions of Progress in South Asia : From the Colonial to the Postcolonial, Oxford, 16 June 2014

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Lipika Kamra and Priyasha Mukhopadhyay, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, UK
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Tracking Notions of Progress in South Asia: From the Colonial to the Postcolonial is a one-day interdisciplinary workshop to be held in collaboration with the Wolfson South Asia Research Cluster on the 16th of June 2014, at Wolfson College, University of Oxford.

Progress is commonly understood as improvement along a linear temporal axis. In colonial South Asia, the notion of progress that came as part of the colonial civilisational project sought to transform traditional societies through social reform and infrastructure building. Postcolonial nation-states in South Asia, propelled by the need to grow and “develop” rapidly, interpreted progress as “modernisation”, to be achieved through more aggressive industrialisation and urbanisation. In contemporary South Asia, development has increasingly become synonymous with empowering the marginalised through state agencies and non-governmental organisations. In its varied meanings, “progress” was and remains highly contested in everyday state-society relations. Might we then critically interrogate these ideas of progress and challenge the binaries of traditional-modern, rural-urban and underdeveloped-developed that lie at the heart of this contested concept? It is this concern that motivates this workshop. We also look to bring into discussion the various lineages of progress in South Asia, highlighting the continuities as well as discontinuities in the meanings of the concept over time.

We invite paper proposals from graduate students and early-career researchers whose work critically engages with the notion of progress in interdisciplinary ways. Papers may deal with:

1) Colonial notions of progress and South Asian responses to them
2) Postcolonial statist notions of progress ('development') and popular responses to them
3) Contemporary neoliberal notions of progress and various responses to them.

Papers could address, but need not be restricted to the following topics:

* Colonial and Postcolonial modernities
*Gender, Law and Reform in Colonial South Asia
*Cultural Reform movements, literary representations
* Progress and science and technology
*State-led progress, welfare schemes, bureaucratic practices
* Capitalist-led Progress: Industrialisation, Neoliberalism, NGOisation and Development; International Labour Markets
*Progress and its discontents: social movements, violent rebellions, environmental movements

Paper Proposals should include a 300 word abstract and a brief biographical note (not more than 100 words). Proposals should be emailed to :, no later than 6 April 2014. Applicants will be informed of the decisions latest by the end of April.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide any support for travel and accommodation.

Convenors: Lipika Kamra (International Development, Oxford) and Priyasha Mukhopadhyay (English, Oxford)

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