CSAS Graduate Symposium 2021

About the symposium

The first ever graduate symposium in contemporary South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto was conceived of as a platform for students engaging in critical research connected to South Asia. As the pandemic disrupts our societies, it serves as a stark reminder of the importance of social relations and the need to transform the “normal.” Presenters in the conference draw our attention to a range of lenses to observe and imagine possibilities within history, religion, politics and technology. We invite students, faculty, professionals, and practitioners of South Asian Studies from across geographies to engage with and learn about emerging research in the field. We are immensely proud of the team at South Asian Studies that brought this event together and we wish all of our brilliant participants good luck with their presentations and academic journeys.

Asmita Bhutani, PhD student, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Centre for South Asian Studies
Sarah Alam, PhD student, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Centre for South Asian Studies
(Symposium Co-Chairs)

The CSAS Graduate Symposium 2021 will be held virtually via Zoom. Please register here.

Register here for the Keynote Address by Professor Manan Ahmed.


Day 1 / Thursday, April 22, 2021 / 10:00 AM4:20 PM EDT

10:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Opening Remarks and Welcome: Christoph Emmrich (Director, Centre for South Asian Studies; Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto)

10:15 AM | Introductory Remarks: Bhavani Raman (Associate Professor, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, UTSC)

10:15 AM – 11:20 AM | Keynote Address: A History for Hindustan in His Hands: Manan Ahmed (Associate Professor, Department of History, Columbia University)

11:20 AM – 11:30 AM| Break

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM | Panel 1: Critical Perspectives on the History of South Asia

    • Siddharth Sridhar (Department of History): Empire and Value: The Circulation of Chettinad in the Bay of Bengal
    • Shweta S Bannerji (Department of History): Mint, Money and Bankers in Colonial Benaras 1781-1830
    • Parnisha Sarkar (Department of History): The Information Grid: Office Organization in the Late Colonial Administrative Office
    • Aqeel Ihsan (Department of History): Voice to the Voiceless: The Untold Story of Partition

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM | Lunch Break

1:30 PM – 2:50 PM | Panel 2: Politics and Religion in South Asia

    • Manvinder Kaur Gill (Faculty of Social Work): Tense Misalignments: Re-Imagining Colonial Binaries in Understanding the Relationship between Sikhi and Alcohol
    • Ayub Khan (Department of Political Science): The Role of Religion in Political Under-Representation and Rural Economic Development: Evidence from West Bengal, India
    • Janani Mandayam Comar (Department for the Study of Religion): Outside the Temple Gate: A look at the Story of Nandanar and its Significance in Jaffna
    • Liwen Liu (Department for the Study of Religion): Killing as Apologetics: Animal Sacrifice in the Manubhāṣya of Medhātithi

2:50 PM – 3:00 PM | Break

3:00 PM – 4:20 PM | Panel 3: Culture in South Asia

    • Aaisha Salman (Department for the Study of Religion): The West and the Feminist: Contemporary Feminist Activism in Pakistan and the Politics of National Culture 
    • Ganga Rudraiah (Cinema Studies Institute): From Sangam to Cinema: Reading Tinai and thought in song and dance
    • Victoria Sheldon (Department of Anthropology): To Do Nothing: Repairing Ill Bodies and Reviving Pre-toxic Pasts at a Kerala Nature Cure Home
    • Aditi Bhatia-Kalluri (Faculty of Information): E-commerce for Micro-Entrepreneurs: Mapping Cultural Restrictions, Ecologies of Use and Trends for Development

Day 2 / Friday, April 23, 2021 / 10:00 AM3:30 PM EDT

10:00 AM – 10:05 AM | Opening Remarks and Welcome: Professor Francis Cody (Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies; Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto)

10:05 AM – 11:40 AM | Panel 1: Mapping Educational Needs and Debates across South Asia

    • Gauravi Lobo (Social Justice in Education, OISE): Seeking Alternatives: The Need for a Post-Secular Turn to Education in India
    • Adrian Ashraf Khan (Department of Geography and Planning): The Quest for Social Capital: Higher Education Transitions of Trans-Himalayan Children and Youth Within and Outside of South Asia
    • Sameer Kapar (Social Justice in Education, OISE): A Curricular Framework for Social Justice Education in STEM
    • Shahrman Khattak (Adult Education and Community Development, OISE): Social Scientists of Pakistan and their Declining Academic Sense of Place
    • Sunandha Shanmugaraj (Social Justice in Education, OISE): The Anglicization of Names in the Classroom: A Tool for Assimilation

11:40 AM – 11:50 AM | Break

11:50 AM – 1:10 PM | Panel 2: The Global Pandemic and Educational Ramifications in South Asia

    • COVID – 19 and the Unconventional Leadership Strategies to Support Student Learning in South Asia: Commentaries from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan
      • Neelofar (Educational Leadership and Policy, OISE)
      • Prerana (Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, OISE)
      • Sarah Alam (Social Justice in Education, OISE)
      • Shahidul Islam (OISE)

1:10 PM – 1:40 PM | Lunch Break

1:40 PM – 3:20 PM | Panel 3: Rethinking Individual and National Identities in South Asia

    • Atif Khan (Department of Geography & Planning): Of Human Life and Drone Death: Visualizing Exhausted Geographies in the Borderlands of Afghanistan & Pakistan
    • Sanniah Jabeen (Department of Art History): ‘Seeing’ Beyond Borders: The Ajrak of Sindh
    • Ashleigh E. Allen (Social Justice in Education, OISE): Identities in Opposition: Queering Sexuality and Religion in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever
    • Hassan Asif (Faculty of Information): Discursive Identities: Media Remix and Digital Technocultural Practice in Pakistan
    • Nilofar Noor (OISE): Theorizing South Asian new immigrants’ civic engagement in Canada: Reflections from a community-based project in Toronto

3:20 PM – 3:30 PM | Concluding Remarks: Asmita Bhutani and Sarah Alam (Conference Co-Chairs)

Day 1: Thursday, April 22, 2021

Keynote Address: A History for Hindustan in His Hands

Manan AhmedManan Ahmed
Associate Professor, Department of History, Columbia University

What is at stake in writing history? For a while, the answer was the colonization of an entire subcontinent. This talk will concern the colonial acquisition and accumulation projects which transformed knowing Hindustan into making British India between the 1760s to 1840s. It will focus on a set of colonial soldier-scribes who proudly declared that they held in their hands a history of Hindustan and how that text would follow the territorial and political domination of the subcontinent. At play in these hands was the work of Muhammad Qasim Firishta, a historian writing in Deccan in the early seventeenth century, who predicted the coming world of European domination even as he celebrated a rich genealogy of Hindustani historians.

Manan Ahmed is a historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. He is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers.

Register here for the Keynote Address by Professor Manan Ahmed.

Book Cover: The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India. Manan Ahmed Asif Colonial era drawing from book The Loss of Hindustan.

Day 1: Thursday, April 22, 2021

Panel 1: Critical Perspectives on the History of South Asia 

Siddharth Sridhar
PhD Candidate, Department of History
Empire and Value: The Circulation of Chettinad in the Bay of Bengal

Siddharth Sridhar is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. His dissertation, “Developing an Empire: Plantation Rubber and Peasant Agriculture in the Bay of Bengal” follows the emergence and decline of British imperial regimes of development in the Bay of Bengal oriented around plantations and peasant agriculture. Siddharth earned his MA in Asian Studies and BA in History at the University of Texas, focusing on the history of caste and capitalism in the South Asia.


A small caste of salt-traders in the 17th century in the arid south of Tamil speaking South Asia under the rule of the Ramnad Sethupathis, the Nattukottai Chettiars, named for their resplendent “country fort” houses (Nattukottais), leveraged a unique family and community organizational structure to extend their merchant and money-lending ventures across the Bayof Bengal. In the 19th and 20th centuries, following the expansion of the British empire, Nattukottai Chettiar firms established themselves as the major sources of short- and medium-term credit for agrarian cultivators in Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, as well as the Madras Presidency, sending large amounts of capital back to Chettinad for investment in property, industrial investment, and philanthropy. In this paper, I examine the history of the circulation of value between Chettinad and the British empire’s agrarian frontiers in the Bay of Bengal, arguing that the production and disintegration of a British imperial structure both relied upon and enriched groups like the Nattukottai Chettiars whose pre-colonial social forms could be leveraged for imperial development. The collapse of this imperial network through the Great Depression and Second World War was a catastrophic structural transformation in the juridical, political, and economic systems of the Bay of Bengal. The collapse of a system of “free” movement for British subjects marked the territorialization of nationalist movements and the formation of nation states deeply committed to control over population demography. However, world-economies are not undone overnight, and the concrete process of rendering an empire into distinct nation- states required extensive litigation, both against and between Chettiar firms. This paper studies Privy Council litigation by Chettiar family-firms to uncover the process and afterlife of imperial collapse and the articulation of a new world-system.

Keywords: empire; value; mercantile communities; diaspora; globalization; nationalism

Shweta S Banerjee
Department of History, University of Toronto, Vanier Graduate Scholar, PhD Candidate
Mint, Money and Bankers in Colonial Benaras 1781-1830


The wealthy city of Benares in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries gives us a prism through which we can view the East India Company’s (EIC) attempts to wrest the mint out of the city’s bazaar and away from the sarraf (banker) community. This paper will closely examine the EIC’s monetary policies and practices that attempted to delegitimize minting conventions in regional mints like Benares. Drawing on a corruption case initiated by the EIC government in Calcutta against native staff of the Benares mint, I address how arguments made by the EIC about corruption in coining, counterfeit coins, and impurity of money were used to justify monetary reform. Between 1800 and 1830 while the activities of the Benares mint contracted, the Calcutta mint expanded its scope and capacity to furnish metallic money for Bengal and the EIC’s newly occupied territories. The story of Benares’ mint is emblematic of imperial ambitions of the colonial state, where financial infrastructures like mints and banks were essential to the establishment of what James Prinsep described as a “general sphere of circulation.” Modern forms of money and banking cannot be fully understood without a long historical view of currencies, and the EIC’s quest to standardise and centralize plural monetary mediums. The paper hopes to raise new questions about finance and economy as spatial and conceptual claims by states and merchants rather than just empirically measurable realities.

Keywords: financial history; monetary history; Benares; Calcutta; Colonial India; East India Company; British Empire; money; banking; pluralism and state

Parnisha Sarkar
Department of History, University of Toronto
The Information Grid: Office organization in the Late Colonial Administrative Office


My doctoral dissertation brings together archival and ethnographic research to present the story of the National Archives of India, formerly known as the Imperial Record Department. It reads as much against the grain of the narrative of the archive as colonial gift, as of Indian historians saving the day by setting off the colonial archive on its slow but progressive move from secrecy to disclosure. Rather, it attempts to build a genealogy of the contemporary moment of digitization of bureaucratic method in India by routing ideas of storage, retrieval, preservation and the architecture of knowledge through the traditional historian’s archive. I look at the archive as an entity, both physical place and concept, that is generated out of the dense procedural life of colonial record rooms and office procedure and whose knowledge-making practices embody that entanglement to this day. I focus on the barely visible protocols and material bases of recording, storage and synthesis, formulated in government archives that created ‘data’ and management systems to launch, address and reconfigure knowledge, memory and accountability. Reading archival organization as a sub-set of the administrative organization of paperwork, this paper tracks the archival concept of provenance through the constitution of the late nineteenth century colonial administrative office as a custodial space. Shored up as an interior of proper provenance for the documentary record, organised by index and registry, the office was buttressed against an outside, seen as the space where a native market of forgeries and copies flourished. I look at manuals of office and record room organization and indexing that articulated an elaborate infrastructure of registration and spatial organization that was both efficient and supported the system of written accountability against lower-level functionaries. I argue that this custodial principle, both as prohibition and as an organization of knowledge, continues to heavily overwrite the information infrastructure in our ‘data present’.

Keywords: archive; information; bureaucracy; documentation; colonialism; infrastructure

Aqeel Ihsan
Voice to The Voiceless: The Untold Story of Partition

Aqeel Ihsan is a Ph.D. History Candidate at York University, specializing in Migration and Food History. His research interests focus on the South Asian diaspora currently residing in Canada. His current research project is focusing on how the emergence of the Gerrard India Bazaar in the 1970s allowed South Asian immigrants in Ontario preserve that aspect of their which was, and today still is, evoked through the consumption of ‘ethnic’ foodstuffs.


Popular historian Eric Hobsbawm declared 1914-1991 to be “the age of extremes”, following the ages of revolution, capital, and empire. Perhaps the most extreme event of this ‘age’ was the partition between Pakistan and India, which is the largest forced migration in human history. Fourteen million people migrated from their ancestral homes to either Pakistan or India depending on their religious beliefs. As these people migrated, they suffered acts of communal violence, and many died during the event. Subsequently, many survivors of partition have transmigrated to Canada, bringing with them their post-partition experience. The unique experiences that these migrants underwent have not been formerly documented in academia or in national histories to the extent that other great forced migrations to Canada have.

Vital insight can be acquired through a comparative study between partition survivors living in South Asia and survivors who have transmigrated to Canada. As such, my paper conducted an oral history of partition survivors; particularly, those who have transmigrated to Canada with the goal to explore how their ethno-national identities have shaped throughout the experiences they have had. My methodology for this project was to interview survivors living in the GTA and to document their experiences leading up to their transmigration, and these participants were my most important source. As such, examining the experience of survivors that underwent subsequent migrations not only plugs gaps in partition history, but it expands on Canada’s own history as a nation of immigrants. Most survivors of the partition will be in their 70s or 80s, and many would have already died, taking their stories with them. These stories, therefore, need to be documented and shared similar to that of the Holocaust survivors in order to preserve this important piece of South Asian history before it is lost forever.

Keywords: partition survivors; Pakistan; India; transmigration; oral history

Panel 2:  Politics and Religion in South Asia

Manvinder Kaur Gill
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (MSW 2-Year Program), University of Toronto
Tense Misalignments: Re-Imagining Colonial Binaries in Understanding the Relationship between Sikhi and Alcohol


This paper explores the relationship that second-generation Sikh-Canadians have with alcohol. Predominant understandings of alcohol in the community argue that Panjabi culture promotes the consumption of alcohol while Sikhi prohibits it yet culture and religion cannot easily be separated or understood in such monolithic ways. Problems with alcohol are often relegated to a Panjabi issue stemming from a hypermasculine culture that emphasizes overconsumption. Simply blaming “the culture” misses the heterogeneity of the community and the impacts of intergenerational trauma and contemporary formations of masculinity, culture, and religion that are rooted in colonialism. Furthermore, stating that Sikhi is vehemently anti-alcohol fails to engage with the Guru Granth Sahib and the lived reality. The central thesis of the Guru Granth Sahib, IkOankar (1-Ness), advocates against binaries, moving away from normative and simplistic understandings of good and bad or prohibited and accepted. This is not to argue that Sikhi promotes alcohol consumption rather, depicting alcohol consumption in reductive and binary terms is against the IkOankar paradigm and fails to engage lived Sikhi. Although in mainstream understandings of Sikhi, alcohol is prohibited, this is not always what is practiced. Moving beyond simple prohibition or acceptance, alcohol consumption can be understood through the dynamic ways in which Sikh-Canadians engage with the substance.

Keywords: Sikhism; alcohol; masculinity; colonialism; intergenerational trauma; second-generation; Sikhi; Punjabi

Ayub KhanAyub Khan
Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
The Role of Religion in Political Under-Representation and Rural Economic Development: Evidence from West Bengal, India

Ayub Khan is a PhD student, specializing in Public Policy and Development Studies at the UofT. He studied Economics and IR at LSE and has an MPhil from the University of Oxford. He was the recipient of the ‘Barbara Harriss-White Prize’ for the best thesis in 2019 at Oxford.


The right-wing nationalist parties in India, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accuse that the Muslims are traditionally used as vote banks through minority appeasement by other political parties. They complain that as a result of minority appeasement, the Muslims disproportionately benefit from government delivered public goods. However, several government reports, especially the Sachar Committee report in 2006, reveal a disastrous economic and social condition of the Muslims. This paper examines whether the minority appeasement claim has any empirical basis and to what extent (if at all) religion affects public goods distribution and political under-representation. This paper uses panel data on government spending on public goods in government-directed development programs from 311 community development blocks from 19 districts in West Bengal, India during the period 2010- 2018 to study the effects of population, religion and political representation on government directed rural economic development. It finds that the population and religion of an area significantly affect rural economic development. However, religion favors rural economic development in areas where the Hindus are a majority through relatively large allocation of public goods. Similarly, the religious identity of the elected political representatives positively impacts the Hindu majority areas. In contrast, the religion of an area and the religious identity of the elected members negatively affect rural economic development in the Muslim concentrated areas. There is evidence that increasing the Muslim political representation is found to have increased economic development in the Muslim majority areas. This paper refutes the claim of minority appeasement with robust statistical evidence. It simply does not exist. In fact, the Muslims are at a double disadvantage due to their religion and political underrepresentation in the government. The evidence shows that they are routinely discriminated in the allocation of public goods which appears to have led to their poor economic development.

Keywords: religion, political under-representation, rural economic development, public policy, South Asia

Janani Mandayam Comar
Department for the Study of Religion
Outside the Temple Gate: A look at story of Nandanar and its significance in Jaffna


Scholarship over the last two decades has pushed back against the idea of a national bhakti movement that was responsible for ushering in radical social change. Scholarship on Dalit (formerly Untouchable or Harijans) bhakti saints has argued that bhakti narratives have been ambivalent towards brahmin dominance and have not led to the erasure of pollution-based ideology. However, few studies have explored the lives of Dalit saints outside the Indian context and, more broadly, what bhakti and social reform has looked like beyond the borders of India. In this paper, I propose to look at the prominence of the Tamil Śaiva saint Nandanar (Nantaṉār) in the Sri Lankan Tamil Śaiva community. I use the 1969 drama entitled Kōpuravācal (The Temple Gate) by writer I. Murukaiyan to consider how narratives stemming from the Tamil Śaivite canon from the medieval period have been used to respond to the internal strife dividing the Jaffna Tamil community in the mid-twentieth century. Murukaiyan’s work comes on the heels of the 1968 Temple Entry movement in Jaffna and makes a plea to end ritual-based pollution restrictions on the Minority Tamil community using a centuries old Tamil Śaiva tale as precedent. Following the call of Ben-Herut, Keune, and Monius (2019) to pay critical attention to the way identity and its counterpart, the ‘other,’ are constructed in bhakti discourse, I argue that Murukaiyan triangulates three distinct identities, ‘brahmin,’ ‘untouchable,’ and Nandanar and attempts hermenutically to merge them into a shared, Tamil Śaiva one. Furthermore, I consider the way The Temple Gate relates to ‘Tamil Caivam’ and the way the text theorizes impurity and untouchability. Impurity, pulai, is not an indelible mark of birth but rather something acquired through poor actions, and Murukaiyaṉ capitalizes on this to argue for access to temples regardless of caste. This understanding of pulai is in line with the Tamil Śaiva Siddhantha philosophy, and I argue that Murukaiyaṉ effectively uses it to garner social change in opposition to the orthodox Jaffna elites who adhere to the same philosophy.

Keywords: Jaffna, caste, untouchability, bhakti, literature, drama

Liwen LiuLiwen Liu
Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
“Killing” as Apologetics: Animal Sacrifice in the Manubhāṣya of Medhātithi

Liwen Liu researches animal sacrifice in Hindu traditions against the backdrop of a broader ethical discourse of violence and non-violence. She interrogates the way in which the animal sacrifice is constructed as a configuration of ritual units on the one hand, and how the violent rituals are doctrinalized, on the other.


The present paper is aimed at understanding how Medhātithi exegetes the verses related to meat consumption and animal sacrifice in the Manusmṛti, and how the intellectual discussion on practical religious life delineates the sectarian boundary against other parallel traditions.

I propose that the dharmaśāstra-bhāṣya as a genre should not be read merely as juristic protocols but also as argumentative apologetics that justifies one’s tradition in the sectarian competition. Distinctly from the parallel mīmāṃsa exegesis, which is pre-occupied with metaphorical issues, dharmaśāstra-bhāṣya justifies Vedic tradition not through making a sound philosophical argument, but by refining an authoritative practical norm. Among all the issues discussed by Medhātithi, animal sacrifice is one of the most noteworthy ones since this controversial practice is at the intersection of several traditions and attracts extensive intellectual discussion.

Considering the religious context at the end of the first millennium in Kashmir, I contend that it is the sectarian rivalry and prevalence of unregulated customary practices that motivates Medhātithi to compose an exegesis of the most authoritative smṛti to clarify and re-establish the Vedic tradition. Through a textual study of Medhātithi, I will elucidate the way in which Medhātithi systemizes Manu’s prescription by removing the inconsistency in the root text and clarifying the equivocal points, on the one hand, and disparages the current customary practices which possibly belong to Purāṇic and Tantric traditions by defying their source of authority, on the other. Overall, by looking at how Medhātithi’s bhāṣya on sacrificial killing assists to buttress the Vedic tradition authorized by śruti and smṛti in the sectarian competition, this paper will contribute to our understanding of the apologetical aspect of dharmaśāstra-bhāṣya.

Keywords: animal sacrifice, apologetics, dharmaśāstra-bhāṣya, Medhātithi

Panel 3: Culture in South Asia

Aaisha Salman
Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
The West and the Feminist: Contemporary Feminist Activism in Pakistan and the Politics of National Culture 

Abstract: This paper studies the nationalist discourse around the figure of the feminist in Pakistan. Every year since 2018, the Aurat March (the Women’s March) organized on the 8th of March by the feminist collective ‘Hum Auratain’ in major urban centres of Pakistan, leads to a nation-wide discussion on feminist politics in mainstream media, such as news channels, social media feeds and entertainment programming. One the main criticisms levied at the feminist content generated through the Aurat March that brings up domestic labour and explicitly reference the female body, is that the call for a re-organization of domestic roles, and a disrespectful tone towards cultural values, is proof that feminism is a ‘Western’ import. The argument goes: women’s rights are important issues, but we must not lose our own cultural identity in addressing them.

I aim to explore how we can understand the category of the ‘West’ in relation to feminist critiques of national culture. On the one hand, as the work of feminist scholars such as Chandra Mohanty reminds us, it is important that we seek to dismantle the assumptions in feminist scholarship that take ‘the west’ as the primary referent for theory and praxis. On the other hand, how do we address the erasure that comes from dismissing cultural critique born out of feminist thought as a ‘western import’? How do we understand feminist language that is shaped and informed by transnational circuits of activism, and is then mobilized to critique ‘local’ cultural values? And how can we best understand the category of the ‘West’ in relation to the contemporary feminist movement in Pakistan?

I argue that the figure of the feminist in Pakistan and its association with a Westernized subjectivity, can be read as Fanon’s ‘native intellectual’: one that does not have a static relationship to the ‘West’ as it sets out to critique existing norms and traditions in ‘local’ contexts. To make this argument, I examine two media forms: first, how the figure of the feminist and its associations with the West is invoked on mainstream television, and second, how the Aurat March organizers construct a critique of existing cultural norms that is both borrowed from transnational feminist thought and practice and is also attentive to Pakistan’s own cultural memory.

Keywords: feminism, nationalism, media

Ganga RudraiahGanga Rudraiah
Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto
From Sangam to Cinema: Reading Tiṇai and Thought in Song and Dance

Ganga Rudraiah’s SSHRC-funded dissertation is an intervention into the field of Indian film studies: a new reading of the masala film form, particularly of the South Indian variety, to understand the value of song and dance for cinema’s thinking on love and desire


The paper will transpose the Tamil classical concept of tiṇai (or landscape) into a concept of cinematic movement to reassess the value of song-and-dance sequences in popular Tamil cinema and offer a new understanding of cinema’s interiority. The goal is to evaluate the typical narrative movement into song and dance, in contemporary Tamil examples of the ‘masala’ narrative, as the very movement into the interior landscapes of emotional thought. That is to say, cinema’s aesthetics of thinking are available to read in its musical and poetic leaps to an elsewhere. This ‘elsewhere’ of song and dance remains outside the physical reality of the film world and is no less different from our own everyday motions of withdrawing—from the actual into the mental—experienced as we think. In this way, I will argue against standard explanations of song and dance in Hindi film scholarship as mere interruptions to filmic continuity; rather than a break in the narrative, I propose that the song-and-dance form marks a movement of withdrawal into the unreality of thinking. Towards this end, the analytical frame of tiṇai will be deployed to acknowledge cinema’s expressive arrangements of emotional landscapes. Additionally, in order to present a theory of cinematic tiṇai, I will construct an elaborate dialogue between film theorists, philosophers, and philologists: A.K. Ramanujan’s interpretations of tiṇai will be put into conversation with Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘montage of attractions’, Anand Pandian’s notion of ‘landscapes of expression’, Hannah Arendt’s reflections on the question ‘Where are we when we think?” in The Life of the Mind (1977) along with Jean-Luc Nancy’s dynamic conception of landscape (paysage) as the very possibility of thinking or what he identifies as the ‘taking-place of sense’. The chief aim is to emphasize the aesthetic value of singing and dancing as they formally carve out the distinct moments when cinema itself withdraws into the world of thought.

Keywords: Tamil cinema; aesthetics; film-philosophy; Sangam poetics

Victoria Sheldon
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology and Collaborative Specialization in South Asian Studies
To Do Nothing: Repairing Ill Bodies and Reviving Pre-toxic Pasts at a Kerala Nature Cure Home


In Kerala, South India, individual pursuits of nature cure (prakr̥ti cikitsa) invoke ethical narratives about a purer past, contrasting a dangerous present filled with social and environmental toxins. While first promoted in India as an element M. K. Gandhi’s anti-colonial project, nature cure has now gained regional popularity as a low-cost intervention for Kerala’s purported health crisis: chronic lifestyle diseases. Questioning the ontological significance of symptoms as signs of illness, Kerala’s non-professionalized healers instead take sickness as signs of alienation from the nonhuman world of plants and animals. Thus, they are public health activists, guiding urban, middle-class Malayalis to repair their ill bodies, revitalize the toxic environment, and respond to moral collapse.

Based on 2.5 years of continuous fieldwork and Malayalam study, I narrate how two aging patients internalize their naturopathic doctors’ advice to restfully detoxify and “do nothing” rather than strive for biomedical cure. By naturally revitalizing their bodies, they cultivate feelings of intense independence and ecological attachment that reconfigure experiences of isolation from migrated kin networks. I engage with Joseph Alter’s recent argument that contemporary Indian nature cure’s self-directed, embodied regimen effects a “sublime link” between the body and ecology, producing an “affective nationalism” that is idealistic, personal, sensory, and down-to-earth (Alter 2015). I argue that nature cure not only generates such an atmosphere of postcolonial nationalistic belonging; in Kerala, it also enables end-of-life patients to craft localist senses of self-determination, in counterpoint to concerns of becoming prey to privatized health care regimes, vessels for adulterated foods and toxins, and isolated victims of kin migration. As an alternative to literature that frames biopolitical and biomedical discourses as increasingly producing contemporary moral subjectivities (Rose 2007), I demonstrate how practitioners and patients’ vitalistic experiments with nature co-forge nostalgic, localist ideologies about Kerala’s ecological and cultural exceptionalism. In doing so, they critically intervene in the conditions through with humans and environments relate.

Keywords: Kerala; nature cure; regionalism; migration; toxins; subjectivity; ethics

Aditi Bhatia-Kalluri
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
E-commerce for Micro-Entrepreneurs: Mapping Cultural Restrictions, Ecologies of Use and Trends for Development


This paper explores rural development by dismantling the factors that shape the ways technology and trade is embedded into the cultural narrative of rural micro-entrepreneurs in India. The paper addresses the issue of the incompetence of rural micro-entrepreneurs in the lower socio-economic rural communities, especially the handicraft merchants and artisans in utilizing e-commerce to reach wider markets. Recent information and monetary policy changes in India, along with the expansion of mobile infrastructure and a growing user base in rural regions makes this research timely and important. The research scrutinizes the adoption of e-commerce as a marketplace and sheds light on the cultural factors contributing to the lack of access to information knowledge for micro-entrepreneurs. The purpose of the paper is to find hurdles in awareness creation for rural entrepreneurs for adopting e-commerce as a business solution. Research focuses on the following questions: How can micro-entrepreneurs in rural communities utilize ICTs, especially mobile phones, to sell their goods through the online marketplaces? How do the affordances of the e-commerce platforms prohibit users from social inclusion? I will adopt the Cube Framework as a theoretical lens, depicting three-dimensional interdependencies between technology, policy and social change. The cube framework would help comprehend the process of development for rural micro-entrepreneurs and scrutinize factors contributing to social inclusion and/or exclusion. The research output will inform digital policy and help build guidelines for stakeholders for both developing and developed economies that want to encourage rural micro-entrepreneurs to sell online and have a global outreach.

Keywords: ICTD (Information Communication Technology for Development), rural development, poverty alleviation, information knowledge, social inclusion, e-commerce, India

DAY 2, Friday, April 23, 2021

Panel 1: Mapping Educational Needs and Debates across South Asia

Gauravi Lobo
Department of Social Justice in Education with a Collaborative specialization in Comparative International & Development, OISE, University of Toronto
Seeking Alternatives: The need for a post-secular turn to education in India

Gauravi Lobo is an educator and researcher from Mumbai, India. She is current graduate student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is completing her Masters of Education in Social Justice Education with a specialisation in Comparative International and Development Education. Prior to starting her graduate degree, she has spent several years working in different contexts of education, in research and community engagement. Her research interests are committed to decolonial epistemologies and her current research is concerned with the intersection of religion and education.


As recent as January 2020 India has seen a rise of inter-religious conflict and religious nationalism which has erupted in violent clashes. There is a limited focus in Indian education that addresses the role of religion in society. Religion is the proverbial elephant in India’s classrooms, invisible but still hyper visible. Post-Independence India was framed by secular narratives which continue to guide India’s education practices. While religion is inextricably linked with socio-cultural institutions in India, it is artificially excluded from its ‘secular’ educational contexts. This paper examines the socio-historic constructions of Indian secularism as well ‘Hindutva’ fundamentalism. It argues that both concepts are rooted in a colonial understanding of religion. Instead, this paper highlights the need for education practice to take a decolonial lens, which allows for the exploration of alternative pedagogies and cultural knowledges, that have traditionally been rejected as ‘religious’ learning. Drawing on Habermas’s writings about the post-secular turn in global society and the return of religiosity to the public sphere, this project explores daily learning of and from religion in India. This project is a call to explore the implications of alternative religious ontologies on global educational discourse. As the rise of religious fundamentalism becomes a prominent consideration in India as well as in multiple global contexts, this project hypothesises that the unique socio-cultural space of mixed religious societies in India hold crucial insights for scholars considering the intersection of religion and education. This paper is part of an ongoing Masters research project, which in turn guides a PhD research proposal.

Keywords: India, Post-Secularism, religion and education, decolonial education

Adrian Ashraf Khan
Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, Collaborative Programs: South Asian Studies Specialization; Diaspora and Transnational Studies Specialization
The Quest for Social Capital: Higher Education Transitions of Trans-Himalayan Children and Youth Within and Outside of South Asia

Adrian Khan is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Toronto. Adrian’s current SSHRC funded research explores education-work life course transitions of Himalayan migrants within and outside of Nepal since 2010. Through Participatory Action Research (PAR), Adrian’s research primarily focuses on social justice education/labour concerns, transnationalism, and embodiment.


The trans-Himalayan regions of Nepal contains some of the world’s most remote forms of civilization. Yet with globalizing narratives perpetuating agendas of all children under the age of 18 to have access to formal education extending to these remote villages, there has been increased shifts towards young people migrating for ‘better’ educational experiences within and outside of Nepal. From 60 in-depth interviews (during 14 months of fieldwork in 2018/2019) and three focus group sessions with 30 youth trans-Himalayan participants, this paper illuminates social changes youth participants needed for more effective transitions into higher education.Seeking educational opportunity outside of their villages and/or Nepal, derives from what participants called ‘the quest for more social capital,’ which has drastic social changes on the trans-Himalayan regions, such as the mass out-population of youth. This paper begins by briefly exploring why youth initially left their Himalayan villages and their rationales for seeking higher education outside of the Himalayas, and parents or caregiver reactions/pressure towards youth seeking higher educational opportunities outside of remote trans-Himalayan villages. For students applying for study visas outside of South Asia, English proficiency or foreign language training and examinations are often required. Furthermore, youth often apply through consultancies to try to maximize a chance of acceptance. These processes are extremely rigorous and expensive and increased emotional anxieties of students, especially with the uncertainty of securing a visa. These social anxieties are explored through three focus group sessions: 1] students returning from studies abroad 2] students accepted for studies abroad and 3] youth whose visa applications were unsuccessful. Overall, the paper stresses the need for problematizing a success/failure dichotomy to reduce stress and pressure on students thinking or applying for higher education nationally or internationally.

Keywords: higher education; children & youth; social capital; Trans-Himalayas; South Asia

 Sameer Kapar
Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto
A Curricular Framework for Social Justice Education in STEM


The advent of democracy in Nepal has burdened her people with greater responsibilities, and (access to) education is paramount to development. Equity and social justices are essential foundations and conditions for creating an equal, fair, and just society and promote growth. Education is imperative to the success of democracy. However, in Nepal, the caste/ethnicity, regions, and religious groups, gender and class of people, there remains a vast disparity between them in the access to education. Education can create a more equitable and just society by introducing social change. It is necessary to empower students to be agents of social change by creating a learning environment where they can value the importance of social justice and raise voices against inequalities. STEM education can promote social justice. The local community issues, such as how climate change and access to health and nutritional services can create inequalities, can be incorporated into STEM education. This paper proposes a social justice-driven curricular framework for a postsecondary institution that can be implemented in Nepal. The research will attempt to incorporate lessons of social justice into the curriculum and work with students in developing skills of identifying social justice issues; enable conversations about social issues that empower students to voice their concerns and question unjust situations in their lives or the lives of those around them. The research will help understand the mechanisms to incorporate social justice in education for an equitable and just society through project-based learning pedagogy.

Keywords: social justice education, Nepal, STEM, social change, curricular framework

 Shahrman Khattak
Leadership Higher & Adult Education, OISE, University of Toronto
Social Scientists of Pakistan and their declining Academic Sense of Place

Abstract: Bourdieu’s theoretical triad of habitus, capital and field (Bourdieu, 1977) have been widely used to understand the field of education, the work of the faculty, the inequalities within and the ones caused by it. However, very little research is available that use the same concepts to study the developing world or its education systems. This paper uses a qualitative design comprising of interviews with the faculty of management sciences at a top-ranking research university in Pakistan demonstrating the inequalities caused by adopting foreign policies and backing their implementation by temporary monetary incentives (Khan and Jabeen, 2011) resulting in declining academic sense of place of the social science faculty. The reforms of early 2000’s were based on UNESCO’s Task Force Report ‘Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise’ which unfortunately did not take in account the local economic, political, cultural and social contexts nor did it make any reference to the actual issues faced by the public-sector universities (Tarar, 2006). These policy reforms not only ignored the long-term impact and sustainability of these policies, disciplinary differences, local academic context and the capacity of its faculty but also were based on the field of Sciences mostly.

This paper while taking into account the faculty’s understanding of ‘field’ in higher education, as places of power relations, saturated with interests and contested hierarchies of agents and capitals (Grenfell, 2012) it discusses how the significant gaps between what was intended at the onset of these reforms and the current ground realities resulted in not only creating and promoting inequalities amongst various fields and their faculty but also affected the social science faculty’s practice, their academic habitus and ‘sense of place’ (Hillier and Rooksby, 2016).

Keywords: Bourdieu, field analysis, sense of place, social science faculty, inequalities

Sunandha ShanmugarajSunandha Shanmugaraj
Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto
The Anglicization of Names in the Classroom: A Tool for Assimilation

Sunandha is a Tamil Canadian who is currently pursuing a Master of Education in Social Justice Education and Diaspora & Transnational Studies. She is also an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board. Outside of academia and education, Suna enjoys travelling and dancing.


In this paper, I argue that the process of anglicizing one’s name for racialized and othered people and myself as a person from the Tamil diaspora contributes to the assimilation and erasure of one’s identity by the Canadian education system. Names can be integral to one’s identity as they often connect people to their cultures or families. Given the significance of names to one’s identity, what then can be said when teachers mispronounce, change or attempt to rename a student? What is the significance when a student feels the need to anglicize or change their name in the classroom? What recommendations can be provided to educators to deconstruct the assimilationist nature of the classroom as it pertains to student naming? This paper will be guided by critical race theory as it is a foundational theory to examine the ways racialized students experience the process of assimilation and erasure when teachers rename or mispronounce their names. My research methodology includes drawing from pre-existing literature and theorizing my lived experience with the anglicization of my Tamil name within the Canadian education system. I describe experiences of teachers who have anglicized and/or attempted to completely rename me, which resulted in the erasure of my Tamil name and identity in the classroom. Due to the gap in scholarly research within the topic of anglicization of names in the classroom, I draw from the available literature within both Canadian and American contexts. Finally, I offer some recommendations for educators towards deconstructing the assimilationist nature of the classroom that students with racialized or othered names experience as it pertains to naming. These recommendations include suggestions regarding teacher self-awareness around names, discussing the significance of names through literature as well as a campaign and program aimed at pronouncing student names correctly.

 Keywords: naming, identity, ethnic names, Tamil names, anglicization, assimilation, education, classroom

Panel 2: The Global Pandemic and Educational Ramifications in South Asia

COVID – 19 and the Unconventional Leadership Strategies to Support Student Learning in South Asia: Commentaries from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan

Globally, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers began to pay attention to the expected number of out-of-school children and learning crises in the developed and western countries, where self-isolation, social distancing and access to education through technology are not surprising thoughts. Regionally and within the South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, this situation is quite the opposite. Due to challenging socio-economic conditions, the idea of self-isolation, social distancing, and access to education through technology is yet a privilege to millions of people who live below the poverty line. The states, despite their utmost commitment, have to decide whether to provide extended healthcare to their people or to allocate funds to educate children using technology. Amidst such education crises, local school principals and teachers have emerged as transformative leaders to support the learning of their students using their limited resources.

A group of OISE students, all hailed from South Asia, conducted a study between January and June 2020 using online databases such as ERIC, JSTOR, and the University of Toronto library search engines to ensure the scope of the topic. The data are gathered using a qualitative research method relying on secondary data sources. The authors deployed Montouri and Donnely (2018) defined “transformative leadership” as the conceptual framework for the study.

The findings of this study reveal similar and inherited socio-economic and educational challenges within the region, which have resurfaced due to the COVID-19 crisis and call for policymakers’ attention. There is a likelihood that the learning of marginalized students studying in rural public schools will suffer the most as compared to their urban private school counterparts. Governments of Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan need to come out of the complacencies and take adequate measures to meet the population’s varied needs.


Neelofar Ahmed
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education  The University of Toronto

Prerana Bhatnagar
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, The University of Toronto

Shahidul Islam
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education  The University of Toronto

Shahidul Islam is an education researcher and author of the book the political economy of education in South Asia—fighting poverty, inequality and exclusions. He has 20 years of experience working in the education sector. In his early career, Shahidul worked with Professor David Johnson of Oxford University and published the first literacy baseline in Bangladesh. Later on, he worked with Dr. Manzoor Ahmed to realize Sir Fazle Hasan Abed’s initiative of establishing the Institute of Educational Development at BRAC University. In the inception phase of the Institute, Shahidul worked with Dr. Ahmed before assuming the Senior Education Advisor’s position at the United States Agency for International Development. He served in USAID missions in Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Now, Shahidul has been working with a few universities from developed and developing countries and leading a consortium of universities to develop and trial a global learning metric for reading and mathematics for elementary education. He believes in investing in human capital and sees education as the most important sector to invest that contributes directly to many other sectors including health. Shahidul studied Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Toronto. He is now working for Education Development Center in the USA, Cambridge Education in the UK, and Educate A Child in Qatar for designing education projects and conduct program evaluations.

Sarah Alam
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, The University of Toronto

PANEL 3: Rethinking Individual and National Identities in South Asia 

Atif Khan
Department of Geography & Planning, South Asian Studies Collaborative Specialization, University of Toronto
Of Human Life and Drone Death: Visualizing Exhausted Geographies in the Borderlands of Afghanistan & Pakistan

Atif Khan is a writer, researcher and curator based in what is currently called Rexdale, Toronto. My research driven practice intersects key themes of transnational human warfare, surveillance systems, human death and critical visual studies. Khan’s SSHRC funded MA dissertation research investigates the spatial use of militarized drones across the United States, Somalia, Afghanistan & Pakistan. Through critical theoretical and visual methods, I work alongside two key theorists – Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter and Pakistani printmaker Zarina Hashmi. Other theoretical interests include the built environment and human warfare, political and social philosophy, and critiques of European liberal humanism. Khan is a current MA student in Human Geography and incoming MVS student of Curatorial Practice at the Daniels Faculty in the University of Toronto.


This paper unpacks entanglements between borderlands, territory and death. I investigate the armed drone as a weapon that makes and creates human death in the twenty-first century borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I engage in a self-reflexive process that blends artistic and research practice in contending with ‘how to research’ the archives of war. Conversating across artistic and scholarly works by printmaker Zarina Hashmi, writer Saidiya Hartman and researcher Madiha Tahir, I map out the political terrain of drone warfare in the so called ‘borderlands’ of South Asia while asking questions of knowledge extraction, production and limitations. Shifting away from disciplinary International Relations that seeks to know worlds through categories and borders, I ask what the limits are to engage with drone-human warfare that has led to the deaths of nameless bodies and lacerated lands. Rather than presenting a regional history of drone warfare in the South Asian subcontinent, I contend with what happens on the ground as social relations are remade through drone-human warfare. I seek to deepen the category of violence against a flattened reading of drone warfare from the vantage of the North Atlantic academy. The urgency of such a topic is to remember many wars are still to come.

Keywords: drone warfare, critical cartography, visual studies

Sanniah JabeenSanniah Jabeen
Art History, The University of Toronto
‘Seeing’ Beyond Borders: The Ajrak Of Sindh

Sanniah Jabeen is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral research focuses on textiles from South Asia and particularly the impact of digital printing, machine-replication, and mass-production on modern and contemporary ‘folk’ crafts in Pakistan.  Central to her research are questions of how artisans and craft communities respond to changing markets, movements across networks of craft exchange, differing forms of gendered craft labor, textiles as markers of ethnicity and nationality, and concerns over the ‘indigeneity’ of the handmade.


As many versions of the Ajrak/Ajrakh (1) circulate within global markets, including the most recent polyester form that is printed digitally directly on to fabric, the complexity of symbolism and the multitude of vernacular narratives surrounding the textile are vast and scattered. Yet, much of the scholarly discourse surrounding the Ajrak seems to focus on a singular version that allows the textile to be neatly categorized as a once dying, ‘Muslim’ ethnic dress and/or Sindhi folk-art form that needs to be revived. Most textile scholars carry out almost forensic iconographies of the Ajrak, as they vigorously attempt to arrive at a certain ‘truth’ of the fabric that can reveal its innate qualities as a heritage object.

For a textile whose ‘traditional’, i.e. handmade, production processes have been recorded carefully in order to ‘safeguard’ cultural heritage, there is surprisingly a reluctance to go beyond what the Ajrak ‘looks like’ as opposed to its other qualities as a circulating object carrying different meanings in its production and usage across different contexts. My foremost attempt in this paper is to expand ‘vision’ by delving into alternate ways of ‘looking’ at the Ajrak and studying its many transformations at its intersection with civic life. By doing so, we ‘see’ the Ajrak as a dynamic site for new meanings and as a fabric that communicates through contextualization instead of carrying an inherent ‘true’ meaning. This way of approaching the Ajrak can reveal deeper nuances of the social, political, economic and cultural fabric that it weaves/is weaved into. My paper locates the religious, cultural and political relationships of the Ajrak across the regions of Sindh, Gujrat and Rajasthan, that are enacted specifically to project specific identities through the various new forms of production, different color codes, materiality and forms of dress. In other words, I argue that what is seen as ethnic/religious dress or costume is not just a link between ethnic (group) and ethnicity (identity) but is a comprehensive communication of history, religion, and political economy.

(1) A rectangular, geometrically printed, blue, white and red hand-blocked cotton textile produced in India and Pakistan.

Keywords: Ajrak, South-Asian textiles, cultural identities, politics of visibility, new materialism

Ashleigh E. Allen
Department of Social Justice Education, OISE
Identities in Opposition: Queering Sexuality and Religion in Netflix’s Never Have I Ever


Several scholars in the field of sexuality studies identify a widely held public perception that sexuality and religion are inherently incompatible (Rasmussen, 2016; Shipley, 2017; Young, 2017). This paper situates the Netflix series Never Have I Ever as presenting a useful lens through which to think about sex education via its response to a perceived sexuality-religion dichotomy. I perceive the series as not simply naming the tension of growing up in a secular society as part of an immigrant South Asian family. Rather, I argue that the series deeply complicates, nuances, and queers this tension via the enmeshment of values pertaining to sexuality as well as religion. Thus, Never Have I Ever demonstrates how sexuality and religion are not inherently oppositional categories of identity, as is pertinent to sex education.

I demonstrate how the series effectively queers the perceived incompatibility between sexuality and religion through the character development of Devi. Devi’s experience of her Hindu faith becomes inextricable from her experience of navigating adolescent sexuality. By presenting Devi as simultaneously influenced by religion and sexuality, the series encourages viewers to develop a critical lens of analysis in order to queer how we typically perceive sexuality and religion as inherently oppositional. I present a number of scenes throughout the series that I believe highlight the function of interlocking identities as fundamental to youth personal development. Following my analysis, I consider the utility of queering as a method for thinking about the compatibility between sexuality and religion as it pertains to sex education, and potential implications for sex education more generally. I conclude that there exists a need for educational researchers, designers of curriculum, teachers, and other parties to critically consider how sex education can take into account the intersections of sexuality, religion, and other axes of social location as inextricable and mutually informed in the lived experiences of young people.

Keywords: religion, sexuality, sex education, identity, queering

Hassan AsifHassan Asif
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
Discursive Identities: Media Remix and Digital Technocultural Practice in Pakistan

Hassan Asif is a second year PhD student at the Faculty of Information (iSchool). Hassan’s research project examines media remix technologies, their affordances and the corresponding impact on digital identities and self-perceptions of remix content creators in Pakistan. Hassan utilizes frameworks that consider media remix technologies from local-alternative and decolonial perspectives.


Remix practices and associated digital technologies have transformed contemporary media production. Originating in Western media ecologies, remixing has been adopted widely by professional and amateur media producers alike in Pakistan over the past decade. This paper looks at recent media remixes in Pakistan where digital content producers are mashing up traditional repertoires of Muslim devotional music, recordings of religious sermons 1, and political speeches 2 to produce novel political, social and cultural commentaries. Beyond shedding light on a democratized access to information and communication technologies, these remixes are representations of alternative Pakistani Muslim identities. By using methods from Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis, this paper finds that the layered and discrete nature of digital remix tools allows for the inclusion of otherwise Islamically censured media elements. These media elements include samples of ‘Western’ electronic music, local controversial memes, and digitally available Muslim religious content remixed creatively to circulate as YouTube videos which often become viral. I argue that this complex audiovisual negotiation produces a digital media environment receptive to the sampling of diametrically apart media content producing unprecedented meanings that challenge traditional understandings of media production in the region. I also discuss whether this paradoxical situation is also intertwined with shifting notions of piety amongst Muslim remixers, especially with reference to how they perceive this entanglement of remix technologies with sacred and profane media spaces. Values and meanings applied to these remixes are also considered while asking the question: how do religious and secular components of remix media production and dissemination, act as subject-fashioning devices that shape the perceptions of media audiences? I conclude by discussing future directions for understanding remix as a significant media literacy impacting user-generated content in Pakistan and South Asia broadly.

Keywords: remix culture, digital media technologies, Pakistan, user-generated content, communities of practice

Nilofar Noor
Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Theorizing South Asian new immigrants’ civic engagement in Canada: Reflections from a community-based project in Toronto

Nilofar Noor is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the South Asian diaspora and immigrant and refugee resettlement. Her work experience spans the Canadian and Pakistani non-profit sector, international development organization and a diplomatic mission in South Asia focusing on educational technology, women’s health and legal rights, and community development.


In the prospective post COVID-19 era, Canada is expected to welcome 1.2 million immigrants over the next 3 years. Keeping current immigration trends in mind, a significant number of immigrants may continue to be from the South Asian region (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 2020). For South Asian new immigrants, maintaining literal and metaphorical transnational linkages with their countries of origin may facilitate them to navigate the socio-economic, cultural, and political climate in Canada. This presentation highlights how transnationality can play an integral role in how South Asian immigrants undertake place-making through civic engagement activities in a post-migration context. Specifically, it will offer reflections from the development and implementation of a recent community-based project in Toronto in which new immigrants learnt about the Canadian political system and participated in a Canadian government public consultation process about food security. Insights from the discussions with South Asian project participants indicated that their motivation to meaningfully participate in the Canadian civic and political process and their desire to advocate for food security issues was predicated on their pre-migration and transnational memories. Participants actively invoked the civic and political challenges and food precarity they experienced in their home countries in order to negotiate their post-migration activities in Canada. Taken together, these project insights offer two larger scholarly considerations: how South Asian regional social realities remain salient in new immigrants’ civic life and the importance of locating and theorizing transnationality within diasporic place-making.

Keywords: migration, transnationalism and diaspora; civic engagement; political participation; food security; community-based


Newsletter Signup Sign up for the Munk School Newsletter

× Strict NO SPAM policy. We value your privacy, and will never share your contact info.