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Past Conferences

Sound and South Asia Conference 2016

October 7, 9am – 5pm | School of Social Work Building, Room 1636

October 8, 9:15am – 1pm | Ross School of Business, Room 1240

The Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) is pleased to announce that we will be holding an international conference on “Sound and South Asia” in October 2016. Whereas the study of what we hear has conventionally been reserved for the medical specialist, the acoustic engineer, and the ethnomusicologist, in recent years the life of sounds – from the most refined of classical music to the most irritating of street noises – has become a topic for disciplines as diverse as history, law, economics, performance studies, film studies. Sound studies, now a burgeoning field, has often focused on Europe and the United States, leaving regions such as the Indian subcontinent outside of its purview, while within South Asian studies, the aural has arguably been neglected as an analytic, in comparison to the rich and diverse scholarship on the visual. This conference, drawing on recent developments in both sound studies and South Asian studies, seeks to remedy this relative absence by engaging scholars across these fields.

This two-day conference will bring together scholars from India and the United States to explore and answer several interrelated questions. How does sound become a commodity in South Asia, whether through its purchase in music stores or through its theft in digital arenas? How do the instruments through which we receive sound, from seemingly optional technologies like the radio to expensive medical technologies like the hearing aid, shape our understandings of the social worlds that we inhabit? What might we learn from studying sound in performance contexts that are not solely focused on music, such as the Urdu poetry recitation known as the mushaira or the Tamilian dance forms of sadir and bharatanatyam? And might South Asian film and moving image media, with their distinctive song-and-dance traditions, provide a distinctively subcontinental ideal for the use of sound? In keeping with these guiding questions, the conference is organized around four major themes: instruments of sound; sound in performance; sonic commodities; and the sound of images.

We look forward to welcoming Jayson Beaster-Jones (University of California, Merced), Corey Creekmur (University of Iowa), Vebhuti Duggal (Sarai-CSDS, India), Michele Friedner (Stony Brook University), Linda Hess (Stanford University), Isabel Huacuja Alonso (California State University, San Bernardino), Neepa Majumdar (University of Pittsburgh), Madhuja Mukherjee (Jadavpur University, India), Davesh Soneji (University of Pennsylvania), Pavitra Sundar (Hamilton College), Nathan Tabor (Western Michigan University), and Amanda Weidman (Bryn Mawr College).



This conference was made possible by generous support from Ranvir and Adarsh Trehan and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, with additional support from the: School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Departments of Communication Studies, History, English Language and Literature, and Screen Arts and Cultures; the Global Media Studies Initiative; and U-M Initiative on Disability Studies.

6th Annual U-M-Pakistan Conference: Infrastructure and Its Discontents

April 8, 2016 | 10:30am-6:30pm

From the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to the jungle of flyovers and underpasses in Lahore, the development of infrastructure in Pakistan has rapidly transformed the country’s landscape. This process has been accompanied by both critique and approval within Pakistani society. Hence, we seek answers to questions surrounding both the desire for and rejection of infrastructure. Through a conversation between artists and academics, we hope to understand infrastructure not only as a predetermined fact, but as a process entangled with social and political implications. What is the relationship between infrastructure and development? What kinds of politics does infrastructure enable or obstruct?  We hope to explore the particularities of infrastructural production and experience in Pakistan to more fully comprehend the complex and multi-faceted aspects of infrastructure in Pakistan today.

  • Nausheen Anwar (Department of Social Sciences, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi)
  • Majed Akhter (Department of Geography, Indiana University)
  • Hafeez Jamali  (School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Habib University, Karachi)
  • Zahra Malkani (Gandi Engine Commission, Karachi)
  • Shahana Rajani (Gandi Engine Commission, Karachi)
  • David Gilmartin (Department of History, North Carolina State University)

This conference has been organized in conjunction with the Pakistan Students’ Association, and is co-sponsored by U-M's Office of the President; Institute for the Humanities; Departments of History of Art, Anthropology, Urban Planning, and Asian Languages and Cultures; The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design; Science and Technology Studies; Islamic Studies Program; Residential College; Office of Multi-Ethic Student Affairs; the LSA Central Student Government; the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies; and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies.

Conference Program

Participant Information and Paper Abstracts

Digital South Asia Conference

CSAS is pleased to announce that it will be holding an international conference on “Digital South Asia” this October. Since media and communication studies began in the 1970s, its object of study has changed in fundamental ways. Media was at first thought of almost wholly within the frame of the nation-state, and its national politics and culture. Since then, the diffusion of continuing technological innovations, driven by the world economy, has changed the media landscape beyond recognition, producing the ‘globalized’ world that we inhabit today. Situated within this larger frame, this conference, organized by Aswin Punathambekar (Associate Professor of Communication Studies), will bring together an international array of scholars with a shared interest in the rise of digital and mobile media technologies, the ongoing transformation of established media industries, and emergent forms of media practice and use that are reconfiguring socio-cultural, political, and economic terrains across the Indian subcontinent. The conference will also focus on the everyday lived experiences of audiences and publics—in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora—in their interaction with different kinds of media: old and new, state and private, elite and popular, global and national.

The rise of digital and mobile media technologies, and new forms of media practice and use associated with them, parallels the emergence of new forms of commercial media and communications enterprises across the global South. Our primary aim in convening this international conference is to draw together hitherto scattered national, comparative and transnational work on media and communication in South Asia; and secondly, in working through the overlapping themes of the conference, to discover common areas of interest and emerging lines of enquiry for future research. The conference is organized around four themes; a panel will be devoted to each of the following: “digital imaginaries,” “digital media and the new political,” “love and longing in digital South Asia,” and “television’s newness.”

We look forward to welcoming: Rohit Chopra (Santa Clara University); Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh); Lilly Irani (University of California, San Diego); Sangeet Kumar (Denison University); Shanti Kumar (University of Texas, Austin); Purnima Mankekar (University of California, Los Angeles); Rahul Mukherjee (University of Pennsylvania); Wazhmah Osman (Temple University); Nimmi Rangaswamy (Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad); Biswarup Sen (University of Oregon); Sahana Udupa (Max Planck Institute, Germany); Paromita Vohra (Independent Filmmaker, Mumbai); and Huma Yusuf (Woodrow Wilson Senior Fellow and Control Risks Consulting).

This conference is made possible by generous support from Ranvir and Adarsh Trehan and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.



5th Annual Pakistan Conference: New Media and Social Change in Pakistan

April 3, 2015

On April 3rd the 5th U-M-Pakistan conference, New Media and Social Change in Pakistan, brings together practitioners (journalists, bloggers) and academics to think through Pakistan’s changing media landscape and its implications for Pakistani society. The conference features:

  • Raza Rumi, consulting editor at The Friday Times and currently a Fellow at National Endowment for Democracy
  • Mahvish Ahmed, co-founder of Tanqeed and doctoral student at Cambridge University
  • Sana Saleem, journalist and blogger, director of
  • Mobina Hashmi, Assistant Professor of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College
  • Marta Bolognani, Research Associate, University of Bristol



This conference has been organized in conjunction with the Pakistan Students’ Association, and is co-sponsored by the U-M Department of Communication Studies and Institute for the Humanities.

Future Directions in Pakistan Studies

This conference focuses on three areas of the study of Pakistan: art and architectural history; urban studies; and cultural history. It brings together leading academics, including:

  • Iftikhar Dadi - Associate Professor​, Departments of History of Art and Art, ​Cornell University
  • Kishwar Rizvi – ​Associate Professor, Department of History and Art, Yale, ​historian of Islamic Art and Architecture
  • Haris Gazdar – ​Senior Researcher, Collective for ​Social Science Research, Karachi
  • Rabia Nadir - Assistant Professor and Acting Head of the Centre for Media Studies​, Lahore School of Economics
  • Manan Ahmed - Assistant Professor​,​ Department of Histor​y, Columbia University
  • Framji Minwalla - Chair​, ​Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts​,Institute of Business Administration, Karachi
  • Kamran Asdar Ali - Associate ​Professor, Department of Anthropology; and Director, South Asia Institute, University of Texas, Austin



This conference has been organized in conjunction with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, with co-sponsorship from the Department of the History of Art.

Recalling Democracy: Lineages of the Present

Recalling Democracy: Lineages of the Present

September 5 & 6, 2014
Room 1636 School of Social Work Building



Decolonization is justly claimed as an axial event of the twentieth century. From this vantage, India’s place in social science resided in its relatively early achievement of the status of a nation-state and its illustration of the dilemmas of a conjoined commitment to democracy and development. A range of empirical and theoretical developments in the last few decades has now converged to transform India from an object of received social science to an instigator of new cross-disciplinary approaches. This project builds upon and extends this shift by rethinking conceptions of the political and of the twentieth century in relation to India.

The two-day workshop at Michigan is the second to emerge out of this project. The first workshop was held in New Delhi on January 10 & 11, 2014 with a focus on India's political imaginaries. The Michigan workshop assembles an international group of scholars to rethink India’s democratic politics in the concrete political landscapes of late-colonial and postcolonial India.  Scholarly evaluations of India’s democracy have been as contentious as the phenomenon in question. The purpose of the workshop is neither to adjudicate existing disciplinary debates or definitions of democracy as such nor to offer yet another normative evaluation. It is rather to foster a consideration of India’s democracy as a trans-disciplinary object, paying attention to its long-run making across distinct practices, infrastructures (institutions and concepts), and conjunctures.


Mrinalini Sinha, Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History, University of Michigan

Manu Goswami, Associate Professor of History, New York University

This conference is made possible with support from Ranvir and Adarsh Trehan and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.