Crisis and the Humanitarian Present: Thinking through the 2015 Nepal Earthquakes

Friday, February 5, 2016 9:00AM – 5:00PM 208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place, University of Toronto

This symposium aims to widen and sharpen debates about the politics of humanitarianism and development by reflecting on the devastating 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. The symposium focuses on Nepal to pose broad questions that engage public conversations in the social sciences and politically-engaged humanities on the histories of post-colonial states, their administrative architectures, and global geographies and technologies of humanitarianism. Key questions for discussion include: Who responded, and in what ways? How does seismic instability articulate political power and instability? How was Nepal “territorialized” for and by earthquake relief? What tensions arise in the mix of differently scaled responses, between solidarity and inequality, assistance and domination, progressive and regressive possibilities? What, crucially, is, or could be, the role of the critical humanities and social sciences in troubling and refining the humanitarian present?

The proceedings are organized to facilitate discussion among scholars, development practitioners, and policy makers, and will feature cross-regional perspectives from other Asian contexts. Registered participants are invited to join a lunch, followed by an afternoon workshop hosted by the Toronto-based network, Asha (Hope) Toronto, oriented to exploring strategies for promoting aid accountability and critical social science in and for Nepal, and in the thought and application of disaster relief and the dispensing of humanitarian projects more broadly.

symposium SCHEDULE

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM / Welcome and Introductions

Ritu Birla, Director, Richard Charles Lee Director, Asian Institute
Katharine Rankin, Interim Director, Centre for South Asian Studies & Professor, Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

9:30 AM – 11:00 AM / Panel 1: Fissures and Solidarities

Kathryn March, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, “Failure in Nepal? Seismicity, the state and local social potential”
Manjushree Thapa, Writer, “Cognitive Dissonance, Narrative Incoherence: Nepal’s Story”
Discussant: Jennifer Chun, Director, Centre for the Study of Korea & Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM / Panel 2: A Role for Critical Social Science?

Sara Shneiderman, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology & the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, “Restructuring Kinship, Citizenship and Territory: Affective and political possibilities in the wake of Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes”
James Sharrock, Researcher and development consultant, Ithaca, NY; formerly with DFID, UN, and The Carter Centre, Nepal, “Remote response: International humanitarianism and Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes”
Discussant: Ito Peng, Professor, Department of Sociology & Collaborative Master’s Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Asian Institute, University of Toronto

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM / Lunch Break

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM / Workshop

Strategies for promoting aid accountability

Main Sponsor

Centre for South Asian Studies


Asha Toronto


Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies
Department of Geography and Planning
Centre for the Study of Korea
East Asia Seminar Series
Asian Institute

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