CSAS Graduate Symposium 2023


Safeer Ahmad 

University of Kashmir, Srinagar

Identity, Crisis and the Future: The Making and Unmaking of Quit Kashmir Movement 

Dr. Safeer Ahmad is Assistant Professor at the Department of History, Government Degree College Kulgam University of Kashmir in Srinagar.


The Dogra State in Jammu and Kashmir (1846-1947) made identity an important part of its state policies by identifying itself with one community while discriminating against the other, legitimising itself in terms of religious idioms, customs and traditions. The Resistance Movement, following the same trajectories, carried on identity politics, based upon Muslims and demanded the establishment of Responsible Government in the State. The politics in the princely state saw a radical transformation in 1946 when Sheikh Abdullah condemned the Treaty of Amritsar as a "Sale Deed" and called upon Maharaja Hari Singh to quit Kashmir. On the one hand, the slogan of "Quit Kashmir" was a revolutionary slogan as it signified the transformation of the freedom movement of Kashmir- from the mere demand of responsible government to complete freedom. On the other hand, it was wrought with fissiparous tendencies as it was "regional" in nature and did not go down well with the Hindus who identified themselves with the Dogra State. Given that "Quit Kashmir" was closely connected with the identity politics, it turned some into revolutionaries, going into jails, while others into collaborators.

Despite state repression, the Movement remained alive in the rural areas, hitherto untouched by the political movement. The slogan was launched at a time when the princely order was on the brink of elimination in the Indian Subcontinent in view of British plans to leave India and the arrest of popular leaders deprived the state of an established leadership at a critical juncture when the fate of the state was to be decided. While Indian National Congress supported the movement, Muslim League dubbed the movement as foreign inspired and called upon the Muslims of the State to remain aloof from it. This had far-reaching consequences as the support of the Congress endeared it to the people of the State while as Jinnah and Muslim League faced the backlash for siding with the Maharaja. The paper will study the identity politics in Kashmir and its crisis in the context of Quit Kashmir Movement as part of the popular resistance against the Dogra State. Was the timing of the movement appropriate given the fact that the negotiations for the transfer of power were going on? An endeavour will be made to study this aspect and also how the leadership vacuum influenced the future developments in the State. What reasons prompted Congress and Muslim League to support and oppose the Movement, respectively, shall be studied. It shall be argued that the Kashmir conundrum, as it emerged, had much to do with the trajectory of the Quit Kashmir Movement.

Keywords: Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, Treaty of Amritsar, Quit Kashmir, Partition

Rajni Chandiwal

University of Delhi, New Delhi

The Unclean Evil Woman and the Crises of Colonial Indian Household


The issues of hygiene and health emerged as a critical concern in early twentieth-century colonial India. These concerns were reflected in the public discourse, particularly in the literary genres such as books, magazines and journals that were published in different languages and regions of India. This discourse divided the public and private space. While the public spaces became the responsibility of the colonial Indian state, the upkeep of the Home became the sole burden of the woman of the household.  In the context of the Home, two kinds of women were mentioned. One was of the Grihalakshmi- the Guardian of the house and the second was Kulakashmi- the Evil of the house. While Grihlakshmi protected the Home by imbibing the modern norms of hygiene, the other kept the house dirty and disorderly and hence opened the doors of the house for disease and sickness. The question of cleanliness and hygiene was a worldwide concern in the nineteenth and twentieth century. This paper argues that these questions entered colonial Indian households through discussions on woman’s bodies where the cleanliness of the body defined the purity of the household and the opposite threatened to destroy it. Although this discussion appeared in the modern language of science, it further reinforced the idea that cleanliness and order were innate features of a woman’s nature.

This paper analyses the interactions of modernity with regard to colonial Indian women and the feminisation of household work through the discourse of health and cleanliness. It argues that the health and fortune of the house were located in the bodies of the clean woman. Thus, creating an urgency for women to follow the new norms of modern hygiene and rescue the house from a crisis. I locate this crisis at the crossroads of anti-colonial struggle and pre-colonial structures of power within the Indian household and what was the meaning of this discourse in woman’s life in the colonial society of India.

Keywords: Hygiene, Feminisation of work, Woman and Home, Anti-colonial struggle, Public Health, Modernity.

Ningombam Athoibi Devi

Manipur University, Manipur, India

The Big Bang: Disasters as a Moment of Creation of Knowledge and State-ness in India’s North-East, 1897-1950

Ningombam Athoibi Devi is a PhD Scholar and a Junior Research Fellow at the Department of History, Manipur University, India. She is interested in environmental and disaster studies, and frontier and borderland studies. She received her Master's in Modern History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is also the Dip Chand Memorial Awardee of The University of Delhi, where she received her Bachelor's Degree in History from Miranda House College.


The chaos left behind by violent, abrupt natural disasters such as an earthquake often threw the state into the limelight. The state springs into action to claim its place over the affected area. More often than not, states use this exercise of "bringing back order" to establish, extend or reinforce its control. In this scenario, providing relief became a political exercise where the relationship between the state and the beneficiaries were defined or re-defined. Much like the colonial British in Timothy Mitchell’s Rule of Experts, one of whose primary tasks was to undertake a project of collection, the colonial state in India resorted to collection of data in the aftermath of an earthquake. Seismic maps were drawn up in an attempt to represent compact and concise information that can be handled and manipulated with ease. Gregory Clancey in Earthquake Nation describes that the Nobi earthquake of 1891 in Japan was aptly referred to by one scholar as the "Big Bang." He endorses this view by arguing that it was a moment of violent creation that went on to expand for a long time, a wake-up call to the Japanese pupils of Western architecture that made them rediscover the knowledge of the past and then re-synthesise it with that of the present. On a par, Berenice Guyot-Rechard has associated the earthquake as the moment of Assam’s introduction into the political and geographical imagination of India. The introduction under these circumstances had long-lasting consequences. 

India’s North-East experiences its fair share of disasters: floods, landslips, and earthquakes, among others. Disasters happen in a political environment, and hence, the extent of its "natural"-ness becomes subjective. Building on the scholarship on disasters in the context, this paper attempts to analyze an interface between the political environment of a disaster and its geographical location in the frontiers of power.

Archit Guha 

Duke University

The Concert for Bangladesh: Capitalizing on Global Friendship in a Time of National Disaster

Archit Guha is a second year PhD researcher in the History Department at Duke University.


The Concert for Bangladesh helmed by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar in Madison Square Garden in New York on August 1, 1971, was a crucial moment for South Asia in the Cold War-ridden world for several interrelated reasons. First, it popularized and endorsed the national sovereignty and political independence of Bangladesh—marking the end of its existence as East Pakistan in the broader public imaginary beyond the geopolitical arena, even before Bangladesh as an independent nation-state came into existence. It also inaugurated a trend towards mobilizing celebrity capital in the service of charity giving to causes in the Global South, as the first concert of its kind—couched in the language of "friendship". Third, it created a dialogue between Western musical forms and Hindustani classical and Bengali folk music. Thirdly, it was a response to disaster—framed in terms of the impact of both environmental crisis (the Bhola cyclone of 1970) and the manmade military strife that sparked civil war in the region. Finally, responding to disaster involved multiple stakeholders beyond the celebrities themselves. The UNICEF became a key stakeholder, collecting and distributing the capital from New York for concrete measures to alleviate the crisis on-the-ground in Bangladesh. Through this paper, I plan to explore how the Concert fits within a cultural historical paradigm as outlined above, and what implications that has, particularly in how we understand the relationship between framings of disaster—ecological and otherwise—and the affective circulation of celebrity capital in both symbolic and economic terms through the discourses of charity, aid, and relief. Furthermore, how do we situate the actors who were involved in the concert, engaging in the global circulation of music as a cultural antidote to crisis? 

Keywords: crisis, aid, celebrity, cascading disaster, capital


Panel 2: Forming, Deforming, and Transforming Identities

Noor Bakhsh 

Ad hoc and visiting lecturer in Balochistan, Pakistan

Bramsh Khan

Syracuse University

Rural Consciousness and Nationalism in Pakistan

Noor Bakhsh is an MPhil scholar in Anthropology and belongs to Balochistan, Pakistan. He is an Ad hoc and a visiting lecturer in two universities in Balochistan. He presented two of his works on platforms like the Association for the Study of Nationalities and the Association of Sociology of Religion. 

Bramsh Khan is a 2nd-Year PhD Social Science student at Syracuse University.


Pakistan encompasses diverse religious, linguistic, cultural, sub-regional and tribal identities. Such tremendous diversity has meant that with the rise of state-nationalism, people belonging to different nationalities could not associate themselves with the idea of one nation-state: Pakistan. State-nationalism gave birth to various “subversive,” “subaltern,” or “separatist” nationalisms, typically known as “ethnonationalism” in Pakistan. Through these forms of nationalism, the “nation-state” myth itself has become a space of conflict, where different ethnic and marginalized nationalities in Pakistan have developed such concrete shared-identity groups that challenge the naturalized idea of state-nationalism when they see themselves being systematically excluded by the state political elites with unequal distribution of power and wealth.

This study examines these conflicts through the lens of rural consciousness – another form of subnational identity politics where people identify themselves as rural, based on the land/place that they belong to. We argue that the delineation of geographic areas into powerful centres and marginalized peripheries results in rural consciousness and creates "shared-identity groups," who come together to protest the socio-political and economic injustices. We focus on the political struggles of Baloch and Pashtun nationalities centring on the Baloch enforced disappearances and the Pashtun Tafahuz Movement. We argue that these marginalized nationalities are challenging the idea of state-nationalism, based on rural grievances.

In this research project, we are interested in investigating the difference between rural consciousness, state-nationalism, ethnonationalism, and subversive nationalism based on "geographic belonging." The aim is to deconstruct and breach the "ethnonationalism impasse" in Pakistan, for ethnonationalism has become a top-down exclusionary process to systematically exclude marginalized nationalities in the disguise of state-nationalism or national security.

Rahat Shah

Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

Patriarchy, pandemic, and the gendered research: Negotiating online and offline fieldwork in Pakistan 

Rahat Shah is a doctoral student at the Institute of Sociology, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany.


I analyze in this study my online and offline fieldwork experiences while working on a gendered topic in a patriarchal cultural context before and during the pandemic. As one of the first studies from Pakistan to explore the gender arrangements and subjective experiences of female breadwinning couples, this article highlights how the gendered nature of the study topic in a patriarchal, male-dominated culture during the pandemic shaped my experiences as a male researcher. I conducted 30 online and offline interviews before and during the pandemic. The article illustrates that my positionality, nature of the topic, situation created by the pandemic, and internet connectivity issues played a key role in delaying my fieldwork and access to interview partners. Female breadwinning couples were a stigmatized group in my study's cultural context; therefore, rapport building and accessing prospective participants was challenging and time-consuming. Along with the topic nature, my gender, outbreak of the Covid-pandemic, and shifting fieldwork to online mediums in a country with limited access to stable internet and a digital divide, doubled the existing challenges for me as a researcher. This article contributes to our understanding of the multifaceted methodological challenges a researcher working on a gendered topic in a post-colonial, digitally divided, patriarchal cultural context encounter.  

Keywords: gendered research, patriarchy, online and offline fieldwork, qualitative interviews, Pakistan

A. Gautam Singh

Manipur University

Identity Consciousness and Social Change among the Chakpa Community of Manipur 

A. Gautam Singh is a PhD Scholar in the Department of History, Manipur University, India. He completed his Masters in Modern History from the same institute in 2020. Gautam is a recipient of the Governor's Gold Medal and the Paonam Kulabidhu Singh Memorial Gold Medal 2020, Manipur University.  He is also an awardee of the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, UGC, Government of India.  He received his Bachelor's Degree in History from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, India. Gautam is keenly interested in subaltern and tribal studies, the historical processes of social change among caste and tribal groups. 


The Chakpa community of Manipur is one of the oldest indigenous inhabitants of the state that still continue to preserve and follow their traditional customs and practices. The Chakpa population once enjoyed an independent status before their subjugation by the early Meitei kings and their eventual absorption into the seven yek-salai or clans of the dominant Meitei community. In the process of subjugation, the Chakpa group was exiled to the periphery of the state, scattered around the foothills, and came to be identified as a Lois. However, Lois is a generic term constituting various types of people – initially referring to the subdued and tribute paying people, it later came to denote those who committed crimes against the state, the war captives, people who refused to adopt Hinduism, people who consumed meat and country liquor. The Lois were subjected to numerous social evils by the Hinduized Meitei community who regarded them as polluted – there was strict prohibition on inter-dining and intermarriage between the two. The term Lois therefore denotes an inferior social status. In hindsight, the experience of social ostracism has partly enabled the Lois in general, and the Chakpa community in particular, to cement their identity as a group different from the dominant Hinduized Meiteis, and to preserve and follow their traditional customs and practices to this day. Today, the Chakpa community is identified as the Lois Caste, enjoying constitutional and other institutional safeguards. But the continued identification of the erstwhile independent Chakpa community as Lois even after the establishment of a democratic state perpetuates social prejudice and discrimination against the Chakpa community. Even today cases of intermarriage between the Chakpa and the Meitei is still low. Any attempt at improving the conditions of the Chakpa community should start with a change in the nomenclature itself. Identifying people with their original identity could go a long way in boosting their self-confidence and consequently in their overall development. 

Keywords: Chakpa, Lois, Meitei, Yek-salai, Identity. 

Themal Ellawala

University of Illinois at Chicago

Buying strap-ons as the world burns: The Sri Lankan crisis


Sri Lanka experiences the worst socio-political crisis of its postcolonial history and its trans men discuss buying strap ons. Leftist feminists from the capital who led the massive popular uprising of 2022 speak of ceaseless struggle to some of the most marginalized women on the island who are exhausted. What does it mean to inhabit crisis and to survive its crisis- ness? Thinking through these two vignettes, culled from the dissertation fieldwork I am currently engaged in, I explore the textures, intensities, and orientations of daily life in crisis in Sri Lanka. The everyday-ness of crisis, in Sri Lanka and increasingly in the world as we know it, begs questions of how we persist in such conditions, how we signify life and death amidst turmoil, and ultimately what the fabric of crisis is. By attending to the interplay of action and inaction through the discourses and lived realities of the crisis, I suggest that the quotidian experience of crisis is one that cannot be fully represented by the dominance-resistance paradigm, and that people insist on feeling and desiring in ways that that betray the complexities of structural conditions and those suspended within them. What such an experiment gestures towards is an understanding of how marginalized figures seek to inhabit a fullness of being despite, or precisely because, of crisis, which in turn illuminates the ontic and categorical limits of crisis itself.

Keywords: Sri Lanka, crisis, action, inaction, quotidian


Panel 3: State, Development and Governance


Lennart-Vincent Schmidt

Freie University and Humboldt Universität Berlin

India’s New Temples: The Development Discourse in the Public Sphere of Post-Colonial India from 1950 to 1964 

Lennart V. Schmidt is a second-year Master student from the joint Global History program at Freie University and Humboldt Universität Berlin, currently on exchange at the University of British Columbia. He is interested in development and infrastructural studies, hydro dams, public discourses, and environmental history in South Asia.


The development of infrastructure, society, and economy is one of the most debated topics in Indian politics and the Indian public sphere. Since the independence of India, political leaders have used the nimbus of development to gain votes and legitimate their governments. Nehru described “dams as the temples of modern India,” and the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, accused critics of his infrastructure development projects as “anti-development.” However, the climate crises, droughts, and massive displacement of communities due to infrastructure development projects challenged the development promises of the government by questioning the benefits of development projects for the wider population.

This paper explores the discourse on infrastructure development projects from the 80s until 2020 using speeches, newspaper articles, and films to understand how development was perceived and discussed in different sections of society. Emphasis will be given to political leaders, civil movements, and international organizations to understand the vantage point of various actors who shaped the development discourse at that time. So far, the development historiography in India has focused on specific projects and discourses like the Narmada Dam, economic development policies, and academic discourse. This paper adds to this historiography by bringing the vantage points from different actors in conversation with each other to identify ruptures and continuities in the developmental discourse over time. This allows me to connect the development discourse to other themes like the rise of populism and communalism in recent decades and to situate the anti-development accusations of the current government against critics of its policies in the broader debate around development.

Khushbhu Sharma

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

“Crisis” of Public University as a Space for Inclusive Learning in Times of Neoliberal Majoritarianism: A Study of Select Universities in India 

Khushbu Sharma is a Doctoral Researcher at Centre for Political Studies (CPS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research interests lies in understanding the intersections of Caste and Gender in South Asia, Caste Endogamy and Politics of Inter-caste Marriages in India. She has been associated with contemporary Students Movement in India and writes on a variety of themes including women’s rights, caste based exclusion and higher education etc. on several academic and non-academic platforms. She is a contributing author at platforms like Feminism in India, the Quint, the Wire and Outlook India.


As major democracies of the world fall into the lap of growing populism, accentuating economic crises, destructive consequences of neoliberal capitalism and rising xenophobic- nativist tendencies, there is a growing crisis of the intellect. Public universities are major site for production of knowledge and carrying out intellectual activities; and have historically played significant role in bringing about new ideas, theorizing alternative perspectives, cultivating dissent, and speaking truth to power. From mobilizing against United States’ war on Vietnam to Iran’s recent Anti-Hijab Protests, the universities have played a major role in bringing about large socio-political changes in democratic as well authoritarian regimes across the globe. The recent scholarship on Neoliberal Capitalism and its relationship to Authoritarianism has highlighted the fact that in various contexts of Global South, Public universities having a history of robust students’ movement and a critical gaze toward ruling establishments have been thrown into grave crises. This paper is an attempt at theorizing such a phenomenon in Indian context, where several public universities are in both physical as well as economic crises. Such crises have been accentuated by the global capital’s enhanced interest in regulating India’s higher education sector which till now was effectively under the public control.

This paper sums up the multi-faceted and multi-level crisis of India’s Public Universities through four different sections: The first section deals with Crisis of Legitimacy, throwing into relief the large scale discrediting that Public Universities have subjected to through disinformation campaigns and media controversies, thereby designating them as intellectually unproductive and politically dangerous. The second section deals with Crisis of Resources, which deals with the Indian state’s continual attempt at reducing expenditure provided to fund higher education and provide incentives to private players for entering the game. The third section deals with Crisis of Security, which deals with how in the recent years Indian public universities have become contested spaces wherein violence by both state and non-state actors has been deployed as a tool for disciplining the holders of dissenting viewpoints. Lastly, the fourth section deals with Crisis of Intellect, where doing an intellectual activity which includes reading, debating and writing have themselves have been designated as wasteful, unnecessary, troublesome and socially reprehensible.

Keywords: Creative Freedom, Academic Autonomy, Corporatisation of Education, Privatisation, Capitalist Intervention, Marginalized Groups, Exclusion, Idea of University, Majoritarian Authoritarianism

Suruchi Kumari 

Jawaharlal Nehru University

Ram Kumar Thakur

Hindu College, University of Delhi

The Crisis of Legitimacy in Urban India:  Analysis of Non-State Actors in Decentralised Governance 

Suruchi Kumari is a PhD candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is working on the exceptions and continuity in Industrial Model Townships in India (for her PhD thesis). Her work is principally focused on the relationship between the state, society, and market in the contemporary urbanization processes using urban politics and governance as analytical points. 

Ram Kumar Thakur is an assistant professor of Political Science at Hindu College, University of Delhi. His research interests include critical reading and understanding of the Indian state, society, nationalism, citizenship rights, socio-legal justice, popular culture, and social movements. Currently, he is also a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University.


This paper explores the relationship between the state and various non-state actors in the developmental politics of postcolonial India. The paper tries to critically evaluate the contradictory push and pulls of crisis embedded in the forms and contents of supposed democratic governance. It tries to look into emerging neo-liberal enclaves of governmentality, which usurp the state’s governing power/capacity and the welfarist developmental needs of people through the language of efficiency and consumer citizenship. India’s “reform by stealth” has created a crisis of legitimacy for existing and expanding state institutions along with rights-based visions of the common good. One such phenomenon is democratic decentralisation, central to the disbursal of welfare policies. The market has captured the privatisation of basic amenities in India, adding newer dimensions to neoliberal governmentality. The relations between the state and a variety of non-governmental, civil society organisations and transnational organisations have led to the overlapping of the state’s functions and “transnational governmentality”. This creates a crisis of legitimacy for both state and market because people continue to traverse plural forums of legality to register their participation and argue for accountability. While the market-based claims of efficiency try to hollow out state capacity, the state, in turn, continues to pitch its welfare capacity in terms of reach and expanse. The case study of sanitation and piped drinking water in Gurgaon places developmental politics of state and market in the complex interstices of competing conceptions of law and emerging transnational organisations activities. The existing rights, services and obligations framework creates a complex anomaly for exercising citizenship rights. Both the civil and political society struggle to make sense of multi-vocal forums of grievance redressal.

Keywords: crisis of legitimacy, decentralisation, Gurgaon, drinking water, sanitation, legal pluralism, governmentality


Panel 4: Urbanisms and the Politics of Place-Making


Asma Marwat

Independent Research Scholar

Coming to Terms with Patriarchy, Poverty, and the State: The Case of Slum Dwelling Working Women of Islamabad

Asma Gul is an independent scholar, She has done her Masters of Philosophy in Development Studies from Pakistan Institution of Development Economics. Her Master and MPhil work focused on the women and gendered spaces of slums of Islamabad, Pakistan.


This paper focuses on the women of katchi abadi (slum) in the capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad. It explores how the notion of development and modernization has given birth to new kinds of class and gender awareness amongst slum communities: slums dwellers who have been living in their respective areas for more than twenty to thirty years. Pakistan reliance on the neo-liberal notions of development and modernization has led to displacement of these native people from their landscapes. These neo-liberal economic policies have consequences as the slum dwellers has borne the cost of development that only benefits the capitalist elite class of Islamabad: for instance, the notion of Bourgeoise environmentalism. In such discriminatory political situation, emphasis is given to working women of these slums, who sustain the public spheres economically by filling the economic roles of maids and servants to their urban counterparts. We aim to quest: how the women of slums have survived, thrived, and resisted their counterparts (urbanized neighborhoods) to bring forth the socio-economic and political deprivation and injustices, based on land accessibility. And so, can their political struggles be seen from the lens of decolonization? 

Vidya Mary George

Goa University

Refiguring Spaces to Confront Crisis in Space-Making 

Vidya Mary George is a UGC Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at Goa University, India. Her research in Continental Philosophy explores the spatial aspects of “the good life” as theorized by Foucault, Ricoeur, and Habermas. She is a CPR Writing Urban India Fellow and an FUR-TRD Compassion and Resilience Fellow.


Despite notable attempts at the production of inclusive space, contemporary public spaces remain sites of crisis and catastrophe of many forms and scales for members of vulnerable communities. Many space-making projects preoccupy themselves with configuring materialities and affordances (streetlights, public restrooms, or footpaths) while ignoring the symbolic or interpretive dimension of space. Building on the primary works of contemporary French philosophers Michel Foucault and Paul Ricoeur through a critical-interpretive approach, this paper contests the builder-centric, absolute, prescriptive claims towards the production of space to argue that space-making practices must also be attentive to the refiguration of space by its inhabitants. A built space completes its journey not with the completion of its building by its builder but in the act of inhabiting by its inhabitants. Freedom and the fundamental human need to belong to a space cannot be given, possessed, or guaranteed but are realized in the actual uses and interpretations of the space, its materiality, and its atmosphere by its inhabitants. This inhabitant-centric, relational, multi-layered, interpretive approach to space-making problematizes both the ideological presuppositions of the builder during configuration and the prejudices of the inhabitants during refiguration. Centre-staging refiguration thus helps recognise the active and participatory roles of inhabitants in the production of space, the flux in the uses and meanings of space for members of vulnerable communities, and the spatial dimension of hermeneutical injustice. By addressing the spatial issues and concerns that affect the dignity, quality of life, and right to everyday life of vulnerable communities and emphasising the transformative potential of spaces in realizing freedom and belonging through refiguration, this paper responds to this symposium’s urgent call to take stock of the crisis in contemporary space-making while also thinking about where we can go from here.

Anindya Basak 

IIT Guwahati

Reshaping Urban through Everyday Practices: A Case Study of Patharghata, Rajarhat

Anindya Basak (he/him) is a second-year doctoral student at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. His research interests include development and displacement, politics of urbanisation in South Asia, urban informal economies, and urban land markets.


This paper talks about how the everyday social and spatial practices of a displaced population, inhabiting the peri-urban regions of Kolkata, continue to modify the social space of Rajarhat in a post-displacement scenario, producing a transversal logic of urbanisation. In the backdrop of neoliberal reforms, the erstwhile state government of West Bengal, led by the Left Front, announced the Rajarhat-Newtown plan in 1995. This hi-tech satellite township in the peri- urban regions of Kolkata was supposed to resurrect Kolkata’s dilapidating urban infrastructure and create a residential space for new middle classes, employed in IT industries. The flagship project displaced thousands from their means of subsistence, but allowed them to retain their homestead landholdings. WBHIDCO (West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation), the parastatal organisation in charge of land acquisition, integrated these residual village pockets into the master plan as "service villages", that would supply cheap labour to the nearby residential complexes. Through an ethnographic study of the everyday practices in a service village named Patharghata, located in the south-western edge of Rajarhat-Newtown plan, I attempt to understand the divergent socio-spatial practices happening simultaneously, which allow the inhabitants of these residual village pockets to escape their situation of disenfranchisement caused by displacement from means of subsistence and subsequent exclusion from the modern economic activities. I use ethnographic field notes and interview data to trace the practices of squatting, repairing and infrastructure building in both domains, where they live and work. By engaging in these practices, the residents of the "service villages" continue to modify the built environment around themselves, ceaselessly reshaping the social space of Rajarhat.

Keywords: everyday, spatial practices, spatial production, informality, urbanisation

Alif Shahed

University of Toronto

The Birth of Bazaar Politics: Shankhari Bazaar, Heritage, and the Crisis of Secularism in Bangladesh 

Alif Shahed is a PhD student at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. His research studies the economic and political function of secularism through the relationship among religion (especially religious festivals), property, and “the market” in Bangladesh. He is more broadly interested in political economy, religious endowments, crafts and textiles, and histories of secularism.


In 2004, a building in the neighbourhood of Shankhari Bazaar in Old Dhaka collapsed, killing nineteen residents. Residents alleged that renovations could not be carried out due to the declaration of Shankhari Bazaar as an archaeological heritage site. While this may seem like an issue of urban planning, I recast it as an issue of secularism’s blurring of religion and politics to narrate the story of modern law’s remapping of culture into heritage. This translation, I argue renders religion, and more importantly religious land, both manageable by the state and subject to government interference. Although the heritagization of these streets and other sites are presented by the government as an apolitical tool of city and rural planning aimed at preserving cultural history, I suggest that the language of preservation and the institutionalization of “heritage” itself have become powerful discursive mechanisms of governing. Through analyzing the history of Shankhari Bazaar’s market infrastructure alongside the debate over its preservation for the sake of public utility, I aim to unpack the category of “heritage.” Unlike laws governing both Islamic and Hindu, laws concerning heritage obfuscates the line between religion and politics. I argue that the language of “heritage” and its institutionalization sequesters religion from the private sphere and transforms it into an issue of public utility. Through this case study, this paper illustrates what I see as a crisis of secularism in Bangladesh, where secular law both protects the secularity of Bengali culture whilst enabling violence against religious minorities.

Keywords: Heritage, Secularism, Bangladesh, Minority Rights


Panel 5: Ethics and Aesthetics: Literature, Art, and Philosophy


Sonakshi Srivastava

Ashoka University, New Delhi

Res(crip)ting the Gaze: An Enquiry into the Disability Aesthethics of “Animal’s People”

Sonakshi Srivastava is a writing tutor at Ashoka University, Sonepat, India. She previously graduated from the University of Delhi where she read English Literature. Her MPhil dissertation is on the biopolitics of ability and debility in contemporary fiction. She is a resident researcher for ForeignObjekt. She is widely passionate about discard studies, food literatures, astromancy, posthumanism, zines, and animal studies.


“your eyes full of eyes. Thousands staring at me through the holes in your head. Their curiosity feels like acid on skin.” (Animal’s People) 

“Animal’s People” authored by Indra Sinha unravels the life of the eponymous character, Animal – a victim of a gas leak in his village of Khaufpur (alluding to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy). The victims of the gas leak include Somraj, and Ma Franci (Animal’s foster mother) amongst others. Animal came to be known so after the gas leak twisted his spine, rendering him to walk on all-fours. 

The book prevents appropriation of the disabled voice of Animal by the author through the addition of an “Editor’s Note” and a website, examples of para-texts, further disembodying the book to en-able the disabled voices, conforming to Thomas Charlton’s “Nothing About Us Without Us”, allowing the crips to strike back. 

Animal’s grotesque body is in a Kristevian sense something that he “does not recognize as (myself)”, a non-normate (coined by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson). Despite his name, Animal is human – he feels and he feels, yet refuses to undergo corrective surgery because he realizes that if “(I) agree to be a human being, (I’ll) also have to agree that (I am) wrong- shaped and abnormal.” This paper seeks to understand “dis/ability” of bodies in the face of anthropocene disaster(s), delineating its porous boundaries, and what crises such avenues give birth to by placing it in conversation with Jasbir Puar and Tobin Siebers amongst others. In this paper, I will also investigate the aesthetics of disability politics – the visibility of the disabled protagonist who refuses to be obliterated and strikes back by negotiating his peripheral and perilous position. 

Keywords: body, posthuman, health, crisis, disposability. 

Arya Adityan

Florida State University

Disruptions and Transformations of Ritual Artefacts: Museumification of Bhūta Objects

Arya Adityan is a PhD student in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. Her research interests include religious and cultural expression in contemporary South India, sacred space and landscape, performance, and rituals.


The Tulu region of Karnataka has evolved various forms of performance-based rituals invoking the native guardian spirits, heroes, animals, etc. One such major seasonal festival of this region, Bhutakola, celebrates the several guardian spirits and tutelary deities (called daivas and bhutas) who protect the villages of Tulunadu. These deities are manifest during the festivals through ritual objects–in particular, masks, breastplates, and anklets–that are worn by a human performers. However, these objects have been displaced and displayed at American Art Museums through art collectors, enthusiasts, and the art market. I study the material dimensions of the Bhutakola ritual and its ritual efficacy, and its subsequent of these objects and their subsequent display in museums. I then ask: how might the identities of these objects change once they are displaced and displayed? To borrow from Richard Davis, what are the “disruptions and transformations” of these objects from their previous lives?

Varun S

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Comparing and Contrasting the Themes of Conflict, Warfare, and Psychological Strategy in Two Indian Epics

Varun S is a Junior Research Fellow and a fourth-year doctoral student in ancient Indian history at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. He pursued a master’s degree in 2019 in ancient history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Varun has presented at the Karnataka Itihasa Academy's annual conference in 2016, where he presented a self-discovered  Hero Stone inscription (Virakallu) belonging to the 13th century Hoysala Dynasty of Dwarasamudra. Varun’s research interests include espionage or intelligence services, Sanskrit literature, psychological warfare, Kannada classic literature, war strategies, and Kannada epigraphy.


The paper's aim is to illustrate psychological warfare within Indian epics during the war through the characters within the two most significant epics in Indian society, i.e., Mahabharata and Ramayana. The risk of catastrophe is a main theme in Ramayana and Mahabharata because the protagonist characters of both the epics experience this issue in multiple manners and degrees. For instance, in Ramayana, when the protagonist Rama was expelled to the woods, his wife, Sita, was taken hostage by Ravana. Rama experienced depression in this catastrophic situation and decided to enter into a war with Ravana to reclaim Sita. Similarly, Mahabharata depicts the crisis between two cousins brothers, the Kauravas and Pandavas, fighting for the kingdom. In this epic, the main issue arises when Duryodhana refuses to give the Pandavas their kingdom, causing the Pandavas to experience an identity crisis with regards to their royal lineage. It was considered inevitable that they would use war to take their fair share.

In this paper, attention will be on the war fields of the Ramayana, with the Vanaras' forces incorporating environmental sources as a weapon to fight against the mightiest army of Ravana. For Lanka’s armed forces, this fighting was a novel method of warfare that resulted in emotional havoc for the defense force. And it also investigates the factors that contributed to the psychological defeat of the army generals in the Kauravas armies, who were the first three top Senapatis (army generals) of the Kauravas.

While observing psychological warfare in the epic, I intended to study how psychological warfare tactics varied depending on the war situation, precise moments in battle, and warrior strategies. For this, the epic characters are testimonials for the psy-war strategies. Utilizing an analytical technique (analysis) from the critical editions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, I am contrasting the pertinent slokas with the Kautilya Arthashastra's advice. I argue that both conflicts were fought and won with the use of psychological warfare strategies rather than the employment of weaponry. Both sides possessed superior weapons. The epic wars prevailed through psychological warfare and pertinent strategies that were unprecedented.

Keywords: Epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Psychological Warfare, Dharma

Snehashish Das

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Is the Hindu Secular?: Fraternity vis-à-vis the Crisis in Truth and Enslaved Subjecthood

Snehashish Das is a PhD Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. They write on caste, religion, gender, and social movements. Their works have appeared in CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, HarperCollins, Outlook, EPW, The Wire, Maktoob, Aura etc.


M.K. Gandhi is well-known for creating a version of Hinduism that was relatively secular in nature. In his weekly newspaper Harijan, Gandhi (1934) argues that he confesses that he believes in the truths of all religions in the world; he "understands", adopts and assimilates them in his “thought”, word and deed, and his religion, Hinduism, permits him and makes him obligated to do so. Khalid Anis Ansari (2022) argues that Hinduism is theologically pagan and tolerant of propositional truths.

My paper would investigate what constitutes propositional truth, through inquiring into philosophical premises of different prevalent religions in India. This paper also uses the square of opposition to critically read the oppositional logics rooted in Hinduism begetting enslaved subjects. This would contain my reading of several popular Hindu texts, along with Dr. Ambedkar and Jotiba Phule’s reading of Hinduism in several of their texts such as Riddles in Hinduism, Slavery, Philosophy of Hinduism etc. 

I would also inquire into the assertion of Hinduism as inherently secular proposed in the above statements and by other scholars. I argue in support of the assertion, yet also question how a thinker can adopt and assimilate many truths which may be propositional or oppositional in nature into one. I investigate into the scope of objective truth question in both Hinduism and Indian secularism that necessitate such adoption and assimilation. I argue Hinduism and secularism share a similar methodological framework, which necessitates the absence of reasoning, and merely remain for governance of technocratic citizens. I argue towards the concept of “fraternity” rooted into anti-caste movement and the Indian constitution as opposition to the methodological framework of secularism. 

Keywords: Secularism, Hinduism, riddles, technocratic citizenship, reasoning. 

Ehsan Reisi 

University of Isfahan

Elham Jafari

Kharazmi University

Ehsan Reisi is Assistant Professor in Persian Language and Literature, Department of Persian Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, University of Isfahan. Ehsan Reisi is a prolific researcher with a particular interest in mystical research, mystical literature, codicology and editing texts, and digital humanities.

Elham Jafari is an M.A Graduate in English Language and Literature, Department of Foreign Languages, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Kharazmi University. Elham’s main area of interest is comparative mystical studies, and poetry analysis. She is also familiar with German, Latin, Persian and English languages and literatures.

The Discourse on Last Days (ākhir al-zamān) in Islamic Mysticism


Apocalypse is one of the exciting research topics that scholars have come increasingly to study over recent years, most likely because it is associated with the various discourses in world community including artistic, religious and political ones that widely draw on apocalypticism. Current research mainly regard apocalyptic peculiarities based on religious beliefs. On the other hand, apocalypticism is a global issue and has been addressed in almost all religions, sects, and thought groups. To precisely illustrate apocalyptic views, it is thus necessary to explicate such like perspectives systematically and cohesively. One of the significant gaps in this field is that apocalyptic views in the mystical Persian literature have not yet been explicated, which is worthy of consideration since (1) mystical literature includes distinctive apocalyptic views that in one part derive from Islamic faiths and Muslims’ religious tradition, and in another such perspectives are mystical experiences of Muslim mystics; (2) apocalyptic peculiarities in literature are manifested in genuine artistic and literary images, which have led a new literary form in classical Persian literature. Hence, the research seeks to explicate apocalypticism in Persian mystical literature, and answering three questions: (1) what is the source of apocalyptic views in Persian mystical texts? (2) what are the apocalyptic features in Persian mystical literature? (3) what apocalyptic literary images and apocalyptic literary form feature in classical Persian literature? Taking a historical approach, the study examines prominent Persian mystical texts up to the seventh century AH. It is anticipated that the study provides appropriate answers to the research questions, and findings work towards filling in the gap in apocalyptic studies.

Keywords: Apocalypse; Mystical Experience; Persian Mystical Literature


Panel 6: Caste in Time: Contentions, Disruptions, and Reincarnations


Neha Meena

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Caste, Citizenship and Bureaucracy: Identity Crisis for Pakistani Hindus in Jodhpur, Rajasthan 


The identification documents carried by Pakistani Hindus while travelling from their villages in Sindh to Rajasthan do not specify the caste categories. Generally, the community associations and documentary filling procedures in Rajasthan define and re-produce their caste categories after migration. Moreover, based on that, they further claim caste certificates after receiving Indian citizenship. This paper builds on the anthropological scholarship on documentary practices and bureaucracy, which argues that documentary forms and practices tend to inscribe, produce and perform varied identities through informative interactions between the state and people (such as Akhil Gupta 2012, Matthew Hull 2012, Nayanika Mathur 2015, Tarangini Sriraman, 2018). Deriving on this, I explore how caste and other forms of identities are imagined and produced for/by Pakistani Hindus through documentary procedures required for their permanent settlement and claimed welfare services. At the same time, it examines performances of varied identities such as caste, gender, religion, and class in the informative encounters between the bureaucrats and Pakistani Hindus. This is an ethnographic study of everyday interactions in the Foreigners Registration office of Jodhpur (Rajasthan), a primary institution that deals with documentary and visa procedures for Pakistani Hindus settlement and movements. The intent is to elaborate on the contested formulations across religious and caste-based identity by Pakistani Hindus with their movement and settlement in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Citizenship, Documents, Caste, Pakistani Hindus, Identity Crisis, Rajasthan

Amisha Gautam

BR Ambedkar University, New Delhi

Crisis of Social Justice: Paradox of Caste Associations in Politics of “Plight” and “Pride” in India 


In a recent judgment Supreme court of India upheld the provision of reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) among the upper castes in education and employment. Four of the judges on the bench were upper caste Hindus while one was a Parsi. This puts a question mark on the bench selection for the EWS case as was no representation from lower castes especially when there is exclusion of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class communities from the EWS quota. While this points to the crisis of social justice in legal sphere, there is also crisis of social justice in the public sphere. 

The purpose of Dalit associations, formed in the early 1990s, was to protect the interests of Dalits which were increasingly being perceived as being neglected by the state. While these associations came from the bottom and then there was a shift towards party politics, we now see a new phenomenon of upper caste associations in Uttar Pradesh, emerging from the top i.e., through Party leaders. Interestingly, these upper caste associations claim “pride” and “plight” simultaneously. They are claiming pride through their caste status of “brahmins” as well as plight by claiming that they are “oppressed”. 

This paradox where upper castes in India despite their dominance in religious and secular realm demand social justice could be referred to as "crisis of Social Justice". The paper attempts to analyze both the crisis of social justice in the public arena and the reappearance of caste in the legitimate Democratic political category. An attempt will be made to see how emerging caste associations play a role in construction of new identities (e.g., The construction of new social and political identity of “oppressed brahmins”) which may be an attempt to craft discursive dominance and a new “social self”. 

Keywords: Social justice, caste, social self, new social identities, associations

Dolon Sarkar

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi  

Caste, Aesthetics, and Politics of Gambhira performance 

Dolon Sarkar is a PhD Student in Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU),New Delhi, India.


The paper attempts to study Gambhira performance of the Kochas, Chain, Palihass, and Namasudra community of Indio-Bangladesh borderland. Traditionally, it is performed during the last three days of the last month of the Bengali calendar as a cultural practice which is an integral, pervasive and vital part of the Dalit communities. The reluctance of academic and political engagement with this form of artistic expression is because it is identified with the low category of folk performance that belongs to the Dalit community. There is no significant attention given to Gambhira performers and their attire, gesture, performing bodies and synergy. The reason is that the existing studies do not engage with the framework of performance studies; Performance studies with anthropological approach is significant and helps to address, theorize and understand performance in meaningful new ways. The study aims to offer an interdisciplinary study of Gambhira, juxtaposing performance and anthropological theory to highlight how politics and aesthetics can be interrelated to create a new form of sociality; this new sociality contributes to the socio-political equilibrium in the distant villages. Gambhira performance is a complex art where we need to focus on aesthetics, political and social to understand the complicated performative aspects. The study delineates how the caste questions are addressed through the performance in the public sphere of Indio-Bangladesh borderland, and how Gambhira takes part in the ongoing process of identity formation.

Gambhira is mainly performed by the lower caste, the Dalit people of the distant corner of the Indio-Bangladesh borderland; the region suffered from the traumatic history of the partition, mass migration, caste conflict, and the highest crime record in contemporary times. The location is also vulnerable to natural disasters, border disputes, and cross-border terrorism. Cultural practice from conflict-ridden areas helps us to understand the everyday life of the people, and it will work as a prism to discern the issues. Despite the conflict and notoriety, the region is academically and politically less discussed in South Asia. However, applying a multidisciplinary approach to an art form and cultural institution from the borderland reflects the sociopolitical aspect more critically. The empirical account of Gambhira explores the relationship between citizenship, democracy, and governance. It offers a more critical evaluative view of the impact of democracy in the distant location of the borderland. Gambhira from both sides of the border should be explored to understand the far-reaching impact of the cultural institution on the marginal people.

Keywords: Caste, Politics, Dalit aesthetics, and Gambhira Performance


Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

“Where are the Modern Jajmans?”: A Study in Caste (,) Census, Crises and Common Spheres

Vrishali is a graduate in History from the University of Delhi (2014-17), India and a post-graduate in the same with specialization in Medieval History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (2017-19). She has completed her MPhil in 2021 from the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and is currently enrolled as a PhD research scholar in the School of Development Studies there. Her research interest areas include regional and local histories of India (Late Medieval and Early Modern periods), community identity-formation, political economy of labour, caste, and markets, and social exclusion and inclusion.


Bhumihars are an important sub-caste in Northern India and formed one of the most influential jajman (patron) communities in the power politics of historical undivided Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. In the absence of feasibility of physical meetings with the onset of the pandemic and the resulting dissolution of common, local spaces, Bhumihars have increasingly been taking to other ways of communicating, networking and sustaining "dominant caste" claims and identity. In this postcolonial research, the researcher proposes to study contradictions and coherences within the Bhumihars’ community narratives in the backdrop of springing up of online caste sabhas and samitis (caste associations) today, and at a time of global health crisis. The power location of the community seeking superior intellectual space and societal recognition through the production, reproduction of collective memories and the invention of, or innovation upon, "histories" is something that has been looked into, especially in the context of the super-local and supra-local aspirations of the community, and vis-à-vis other castes. The mid-pandemic primary research uses the ethno-history methodology and attempts to establish a dialogue with both the Structural and the Narrative approaches in studying caste. Findings have shown that this shift has exacerbated the already existing caste crisis in the offline public sphere. While the Bhumihars were able to envisage the digital public sphere as a sturdy alternate space to better their lobbying, and to convert this symbolic capital into socio-economic capital in the realm of the physical by using social media platforms as a place to re-group the caste “brothers” against the caste “others”, these exclusive and exclusionary (as opposed to Habermasian "inclusive public sphere") sabhas lack an archnemesis in a Dalit counter-public, due to the stark "digital divide" in India (Weber). While the very first Bhumihar caste sabha was born out of the womb of a historical crisis called the "first caste census" in British colonial India, the new digital caste sabhas are the progenies of crises called the "Digital India" and the COVID-19, even as the state of Bihar heads towards a yet another, “revolutionizing” caste census. 

Keywords: community identity; public sphere; digital divide; ethno-history; caste census


Panel 7: Shifting Forms of Labour and Political Organization


Ashique Ali Thuppilikkat 

University of Toronto

Combating Crisis: Lessons from the Cooperative Movement in North Malabar, Kerala 

Ashique Ali Thuppilikkat is a First Year Ph.D. student in the Faculty of information, University of Toronto, Canada. In the past, he completed MA and M.Phil. in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.


The history of the cooperative movement in Kerala, a southern state in India, indicates the trajectory of successive bottom-up worker mobilization through cooperatives to combat situations of crisis. The vibrant and dynamic local tradition of public action, adequate state support and greater density of grassroots social organizations (Isaac and Williams 2017) has helped the flourishing of cooperatives in the state, enhancing the potential of cooperatives to respond to various systemic crises.  

The proposed paper traces the trajectories of three cooperatives in Kerala; the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society (Asia’s largest worker cooperative) in the Calicut district, the Kerala Dinesh Beedi in the Kannur district and the Brahmagiri Development Society in Wayanad district. These cooperatives in North Malabar are workers' responses to caste oppression, capital flight and agrarian distress in the state.  

The paper addresses a) how and why the organized worker movement in the state has considered cooperatives as a tool to combat various systemic crises and b) how the workers' defensive struggle visa vis the formation of cooperatives has tamed the logic of feudal caste relations and the structural bargaining power of capital. This will help evaluate the efficacy of cooperatives as an infrastructure for resistance from the margins and their resilience in combating socioeconomic crises.  

The qualitative research is based on in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with workers, trade unionists and other stakeholders in cooperatives, selected based on snow-ball sampling. 

Keywords: Cooperatives, Capitalism, Caste, Crisis 

Nisha Toomey 

University of Toronto 

Evasion of Land as Crisis within Western Humanitarian Organizations: The Case of the Thailand-Myanmar Border

Nisha Toomey is a Desi settler based in Tkaronto, a facilitator, educator, researcher and migrant rights activist. She holds a PhD in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation traces white supremacist and settler colonial logics in the fields of humanitarianism and international development. Nisha has articles in Society and Space Magazine, Mobilities, Critical Ethnic Studies, the International Journal of Border and Migration Studies, and book chapters in the Handbook of Qualitative Cross- Cultural Research, Indigenous Reconciliation and Decolonization, and Toward What Justice? When not teaching and writing, you’ll find her playing outside with her children.


This paper presents results from my dissertation research along the Thailand-Myanmar border, where populations are pressed between a dictatorial government and extractive capitalism, and Indigenous/ethnic national groups are fighting for their sovereignty and defending their lands against destruction and appropriation. Meanwhile, international development and humanitarian aid organizations (INGOs) from the Global North have established a longstanding presence to provide services to migrants and refugees who have fled Myanmar.

I worked along the Thailand-Myanmar border with INGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) for years, and returned in 2019 to conduct qualitative interviews with 32 employees of organizations. We discussed the significance of land to local communities, and how organizations respond to land issues in Myanmar. Participants expressed that lands contain a multitude of meanings for community identity, are key to livelihoods and people’s ability to return home to Myanmar. Yet, while CBOs on the Thailand-Myanmar border are actively confronting land loss as a problem, INGOs are barely considering it. I find that even though INGOs are concerned with aiding displaced people, they mostly ignore the relationship between land rights and migration. 

I discuss how INGO silence around the issue of land is the result of settler colonial logics that collapse land into commodity. While INGOs place symbolic emphasis on working with local populations, they will never be able to fully aid those populations, so long as their logics center on the nation-state and the protection of private property. I argue that the evasion of land is part of a larger crisis for Western humanitarian organizations. Currently, critique of INGOs is that they have failed to effect authentic social change and are reliant on colonial/modern nation-states and their borders. However, this “crisis” of purpose presents an opportunity for INGOs to support land defense movements and ethnic/Indigenous relations with land.

Keywords: Thailand-Myanmar border, Indigenous/ethnic national groups international development and humanitarian aid organizations (INGOs), migrants and refugees, land

Aditi Bhatiya-Kalluri 

University of Toronto

Crisis in E-commerce: Cash-on-Delivery Payment Method Impeding Growth of E-tailers


Cash on Delivery (COD) is a payment method for online orders when a customer pays while taking over the package. COD has been a popular payment method since the inception of ecommerce. COD is prevalent in Eastern Europe, Gulf countries and various Asian countries. This paper explores COD in India due to the recent establishment of a digital payment ecosystem. The COD method was mainly for rural customers who needed access to digital payments such as e-banking, e-wallet, and credit cards with limited Internet connectivity (Dudharejia, 2018). Online customers in India are wary of product authenticity and hesitant to use digital payments, hence choose to pay upon delivery with the COD method to feel in control. The COD initially fueled e-commerce in India around a decade ago and is now impeding its growth at a national level. Policy analysis is the theoretical approach adopted for this paper. This policy brief analyses stakeholders involved in e-commerce policymaking to suggest policy alternatives and recommendations, which will also be relevant for other countries implementing the COD payment method. The findings will build guidelines for e-commerce policies that are fair to customers and retailers in an online marketplace. These guidelines should benefit marginalized e-tailers by reaching new consumer groups and having a global outreach. This research would be a practical case study for countries with COD payments to encourage financial inclusion. The recent expansion of the digital financial ecosystem contributes to the immense timeliness of raising awareness of COD as a policy issue.

Keywords: information systems, platforms, digital ecosystem, financial inclusion


Panel 8: Crisis in Culture: Region, Language, and Nationalism


Rory Tasker

University of Toronto

Language as Inheritance: Sera Jey Monastery’s Development of a Virtual Tibetan Language Academy

Rory Tasker was born in 1980 and completed a BA at the University of Toronto in 2003, after which he traveled to Sera Monastery in India. A monk since 2004, he has lived in a variety of monastic communities in India, Thailand and Taiwan. From 2008 to 2010 he studied Tibetan in Dharamsala at the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program (LRZTP), and since 2011 has served as a translator from Tibetan into English for Geshe Sonam Ngodrup and a variety of other Buddhist teachers. He returned to Canada in 2019 and completed an MA in Asian Religions at McMaster University. Since 2021 he has been a doctoral student at U of T’s OISE, where he is researching the pedagogies of Tibetan-origin lamas teaching in North America. He continues to serve Geshe Sonam Ngodrup as resident interpreter at Lama Yeshe Ling Centre in Burlington, Ontario.


The arrival of Tibetans as refugees in India following the annexation of their country by China in 1959 has been discussed extensively in the field of South Asian studies. Less researched is the second wave of Tibetan migration that has gained momentum since the late 1990s – of Tibetan exiles from India to the countries of the global west, particularly in North America and Europe. This migrant population contains a significant portion of former monks, many of whom studied at Sera Monastery in Karnataka.

The children of former Sera settled in the West often struggle to learn the Tibetan language and maintain a meaningful relationship with their cultural heritage. According to many in the community, this is a crisis that threatens the survival of Tibetan identity post-exile. Former Sera Jey monks decided to utilize their institutional ties to the monastery in India to develop educational programs to mitigate the alienation of many of their children from the Tibetan culture.

As a result of the work of former monks living in the West, the Sera Jey Online School has emerged as a key initiative for the preservation of ancient culture and language. Current Tibetan scholar-monks at Sera Jey in India provide classes to the young generation of Tibetan diaspora in the West using internet technology, including Zoom, Facebook, and WhatsApp. 

The online school initiative is an example of the innovative approaches that Tibetan exiles utilize to propagate and preserve their language and culture. Technology has emerged as a key component of transmitting the Tibetan identity to the younger generations of the diaspora. 

Keywords: culture, exile, language, diaspora, monasticism

Shashank Singh

Fox International Fellow, Yale University; PhD Candidate, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Political Mobilization, Communalism, and the Crisis of Princely Authority: Gwalior, 1920s-1948


As the contemporary political culture in India witness a persisting appeal of princely personages (like Scindias) and an increasing assertion of Hindu nationalism, this paper examines the political crisis in the princely state of Gwalior generated by an alliance between the princely authority and Hindu nationalists between 1920s and 1940s. What kind of identity did the Scindia rulers of Gwalior promote to reframe their political legitimacy? How did the local political leaders of Gwalior contest it? 

The autocratic rule of Scindias in Gwalior had kept the state backward, but they had been promoting a syncretic culture within their territories until the 1930s. However, as the popular political agitation began to threaten the Gwalior durbar into conceding the responsible government, Scindias began to ally with the Hindu communal organisations. This alliance between Scindia durbar and Hindu communal groups led to an aggressive assertion of a Hindu cultural identity in Gwalior. Consequently, the state witnessed a series of communal riots between 1939 and 1946, and the Muslims were always blamed for the disturbance. But such an aggressive campaign by Hindu communal groups was opposed by the popular political leaders who were contesting the princely authority.

For my research, I have utilised the Foreign and Political Department files and Gwalior Residency Records in the National Archives of India, New Delhi. Among the published sources, I have consulted the annual administration reports published by the Gwalior durbar. I have also examined the local vernacular newspapers preserved at the Madhavrao Sapre Sangrahalaya, Bhopal. They include the Jayaji Pratap and Praja Pukar from Gwalior, Karamveer from Khandwa, and Pratap from Kanpur.

Keywords: Political crisis, nationalism, princely autocracy, communalism

Aaisha Salman

University of Toronto 

Narrating History, Culture, and Crisis in Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV)'s Aangan Terha (1984)

Aaisha Salman is a PhD student at the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Their research focuses on post-Partition television histories in South Asia. 


This paper examines the development and literary-cultural history of the Urdu TV drama as a genre, and its representation of "cultural crises" through ethnic politics in urban Pakistan. Through the analysis of the production context of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV)'s Aangan Terha (1984), I show how the early Urdu TV play imagines tehzīb or national culture through Urdu and its literary-cultural history rooted in North India. Aangan Terha mobilizes a narrative of crisis underscored by ethnic tensions prevalent in 1980s, during which the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) rose to electoral power in Sindh. Through a satirized narrative of cultural crisis, Aangan Terha facilitates a national/ist imagining by positioning characters who do not share the North Indian or Hindustani lineage of Urdu-speaking Muhajirs as non-participants in tehzīb or "culture" at large. I suggest that Aangan Terha is one example of how PTV Urdu plays embed imaginings of national culture and cultured subjects through lineages and histories that are specific to Urdu-speaking Muhajirs.