Cross Border Entanglements in Eastern South Asia: A symposium with the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies at the Annual Conference on South Asia in Wisconsin-Madison in October 2018

Conference/Symposium | October 11 | 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. | The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, Wisconsin Ballroom

  1 West Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53703

 The Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, American Institute of Bangladesh Studies

The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley and American Institute of Bangladesh Studies are collaborating on Cross Border Entanglements in Eastern South Asia, a symposium in conjunction with the Annual Conference on South Asia in Wisconsin-Madison in October 2018.

Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar prompts a massive displacement of 700,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, radically re-configuring demography, ecology, and politics along the border. China’s One-Belt-One-Road program prompts massive new infrastructure projects linking South Western China and Southeast Asia to Bangladesh and to India through the sensitive Northeast. The imperatives of preparing for climate change reconfigure the Sundarbans region, highlighting the disastrous consequences of imagining the forest as neatly divided by a border. Realities and perceptions of migration from Bangladesh into Assam lead to waves of violence and a resurgence of ethno-nationalist politics. Calls for self-governance in Darjeeling and a redrawing of the internal boundaries of West Bengal prompt state blockades and media blackouts. As these examples suggest, Eastern South Asia’s borders—internal and external—are in a moment of tremendous flux. How do these separate issues articulate with one another? What kind of new connections, flows, and politics emerge through and around them? How do these headline grabbing issues mask other, more everyday strategies of border navigation? In what ways do these shifts interact with longstanding cultural, religious, and ethnic practices and linkages across borders? And what are the longer histories that animate contemporary challenges to these comparatively recent border configurations? The symposium seeks to bring together scholars working across social science, humanities, and policy arenas to raise new questions about the current moment and to link it to longer trajectories and processes of making and unmaking borders in Eastern South Asia. By bringing together scholars working in India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, and West Bengal, we hope to contextualize these contemporary crises as part of a broader regional transformation. In doing so, we seek to connect past to present in a critical region where the future hangs in the balance.


8:30 – 9 am: Golam Mathbor: Opening Remarks

9 – 10:15 am: Session 1 – Cross-Border Drifts (Chair/Discussant: Sufia Uddin)

Yasmin Saikia: Notes on the “Bangladeshi” Issue in Assam
Shana Ghosh: Into the Unbearable Remoteness of the Rangpur Road
Carola Lorea: Matua, Hindu, or Foreigner? Shifting Identities in Bengali-Speaking Borderlands

10:15 – 10:30 am: Coffee Break

10:30 am – 12:15 pm: Session 2 – Border Environments (Chair/Discussant: Jason Cons)

Amites Mukhopadhyay: Forested Borders, Fluid Movements: Imagining and Negotiating Borders in the Indian Sundarbans
Dilshanie Perera: Atmospheric Imaging, Atmospheric Imagining: Weather Prediction across Borderlines in Bengal
Debjani Bhattacharyya: Tides and Almanac: Rethinking Land, Water and Law in the Bengal Delta

12:15 – 1:45 pm: Lunch

1:45 – 3 pm: Rohingya Movements (Chair/Discussant: Sanchita Saxena)

CR Abrar:The Forsaken Victims of Slow Burning Genocide: International Response to the Rohingya Crisis
Samira Siddique: Development for the Stateless: The Rohingya Case
Misha Quill: (Un)Wanted: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Established in 2013 with a generous gift from the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley champions the study of Bangladesh’s cultures, peoples and history. The first of its kind in the US, the Center’s mission is to create an innovative model combining research, scholarships, the promotion of art and culture, and the building of ties between institutions in Bangladesh and the University of California.

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