Nina Khan (HU Berlin) und Menusha de Silva (National University of Singapore) im Rahmen des Trouble Shooting Lab der Konferenz „Diversity Encounters. Intersectional and Post-Colonial Perspectives“, 24.-26. Mai 2016, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und National University of Singapore (NUS)
The joint conference dealt with the impact migrants make on the multicultural and multiracial dimensions of cities in Asia and Europe. Criticizing the East-West divide and the focus on ‘difference’ and ‘otherness’ in otherwise insightful academic publications on this matter, the conference aimed at developing a collaborative perspective by bringing together researchers from the East (NUS) and the West (HU Berlin) for reflecting and discussing each other’s research. This exchange was especially evident in the “Trouble Shooting Lab” for which three tandems were created, consisting of one PhD student from HU Berlin and one from NUS in each case. They exchanged information about their research and prepared a joint paper on common challenges in their projects and on how they could learn from each other’s case study.
In their presentation, Nina Khan and Menusha de Silva gave a short introduction to their respective research projects, highlighted the commonality in their studies and discussed some methodological challenges.
Menusha de Silva’s work examines the migration histories of retired Sri Lankan immigrants in the UK, their experiences of return to Sri Lanka for retirement, and the manner they negotiate their dual entitlements (mostly through dual citizenship) and sense of belonging in two countries in order create an ideal transnational retirement. Nina Khan’s research focuses on the “New Donor” India or rather “development partner”, as it prefers to be called, and its development discourse in particular. Against the background of India’s own experience as a recipient country and a former colonized country of the Global South, the question arises how this might impact its development discourse and whether this will form an alternative to the (until today) hierarchical western development discourse.
The common ground of these two research projects is the postcolonial lens. The key angle which is being taking is how today’s perspectives and knowledge of the world are still influenced by colonial time discourses of the North-South binary. We tried to reflect on how the Asian and European gaze is inherent in both ours studies. Considering the European gaze in Menusha de Silva’s work, most of the retired migrants interviewed shared the manner their encounters with the predominantly-White population in the UK made them aware of their inferior social location. Regarding the Asian gaze on the other hand, the migrants who returned to Sri Lanka for retirement experienced negative encounters with the culturally and religiously similar local population. These exclusions are due to the disparity between their transnational identities and the Sri Lankan society’s notion of the national subject. In Nina Khan’s study, India challenges the Western gaze on the South, which is still inherent in today’s dominant development discourse. It questions the dominant European (or rather Western) gaze or discourse and the binary of the giving, charitable and progressive North and the needy, receiving and “backward” South. By focusing on India’s donor status, the research intends to move away from the stereotypical portrayal of India as the “underdeveloped” recipient country in development cooperation.
The discussion on methodological challenges revolved around how the respective positionality as a student from a European/Asian academic institution (or traditional Western donor country) might influence the openness of interview partners. For example, a large proportion of retired migrants living in Sri Lanka conveyed their distrust of Western institutions, which they perceived to be circulating negative views of Sri Lanka. Within this background, the affiliation to a non-Western university was viewed as a neutral position by the participants and enabled a greater level of trust. Depending on the status of the interview partners (retired migrants, Indian government officials) and the larger context of the research, this positionality might have a positive or negative impact on the interview outcomes.
Given the nature of our individual researches, we highlighted that learning from the Asian and European context is a fruitful lens not just for studies that are explicitly situated in these regions, but also in researches where the Asian and European contexts are more nuanced.
Report by Mette Gabler
The 10th European PhD workshop in South Asian Studies was held June 17-19, 2016 outside Lisbon, Portugal, inviting a small group of PhD students affiliated with various universities around Europe to present and discuss current questions and ideas relevant to their theses. This annual workshop, organised by the European Association for South Asian Studies (EASAS), was hosted by the Centre for International Studies (CEI) at the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE), and provided stay for 18 PhD students and five senior scholars at the Inatel Oeiras, a resort by the river Tagus, 20 minutes away from Lisbon by train.
Following the thought behind EASAS, an academic association engaged in the support of research and teaching concerning South Asia in all fields of study and with the objective to promote South Asian Studies in all countries of Europe, the participants belonged to a range of disciplines. Among them anthropology, philology, history of literary or theatre, sociology, conflict management and development, economy, history and biomedicine, which provided not only broad discussions but insights from various perspectives. This lead to rich debates on topics as diverse as analysing Puranic texts, Marathi Literature during colonial times, and recent Hindi novels, investigating gender dynamics in health care, ethnographic studies on migration in Bangladesh and refugees from African countries in Delhi, as well as discussions on Malayalam cinema, advertising, and Parsi theatre.
The three day workshop was organised by Rosa Maria Perez and Jason Fernandes affiliated with the University Institute of Lisbon, and main commentators included Rosa Maria Perez herself, Alessandra Consolaro (University of Turin), Roger Jeffrey (University of Edinburgh) and José Mapril (New University of Lisbon). The papers that were circulated before the workshop were divided among them for an initial comment, followed by discussions among all participants.
The weekend began with an afternoon program of four papers but left ample time for informal discussions and connecting to PhD students currently situated across Europe; many also with ties to universities in South Asia. Also Saturday brought a full schedule and the engagement with the different topics continued outside the formal sessions. I left after another round of five papers on Sunday with affirmative impressions of meeting interesting people, thoughtful insights and useful comments.
Photograph by Mette Gabler: Manju E P affiliated with Freie Universität, Berlin showing a clip form a Malayalm film in connection with discussing the paper: “Cinema within Cinema: Self-Refelctive/Self-Erasing Nature of Malayalam Cinema”.