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Seeking Social Justice in South Asia

September 22-23, 2017

The Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan is pleased to host an international conference on September 22-23, 2017: “Seeking Social Justice in South Asia.” The conference’s aim is to focus attention on stark and persistent political, economic, and social inequalities and the ongoing struggles to address them in contemporary South Asia.

The conference will bring together a group of internationally-renowned lawyers, activists, academics, and producers of media (print and multimedia) to consider a range of interconnected struggles for social justice, including religious and ethnic polarization, gender and sexuality, caste politics, minority rights, urbanization and displacement, and media and information access. Presentations will address these issues in the Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan contexts.

The conference gives us the opportunity to consider such issues not only in their national contexts, but also in regional and international frames. As such, we hope to be able to consider the following issues:

  • How are struggles for social justice interconnected? That is, what are the common structural causes that produce the varied forms of oppression and social inequality that each of the conference participants works on? We might think of these causes in national, regional, and global terms.
  • Where are the opportunities for solidarity between movements—nationally and regionally? And relatedly, where are the fractures that hinder broad-based coalitions?
  • What are the shared colonial legacies that structure social oppression, injustice, and inequality in South Asia? One place we might focus attention given the expertise of the participants is on the shared inheritance of colonial jurisprudence across these four postcolonial states.
  • What role—if any—can international advocacy play in effecting social justice in South Asia? And relatedly, what role does the international context play in producing and/or buttressing oppression and injustice in South Asia?

This conference will take a comparative approach to reflect on the complex cross-border implications of struggles against discrimination, marginalization, and the mechanisms of social exclusion and oppression that shape the lives of millions of people across the region.

We look forward to welcoming:

Flavia Agnes, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
Khalid Anis Ansari, Glocal University (UP, India)
Sara Hossain, Bangladesh Legal Aid Services and Trust
Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group (London)
Zainab Malik, Justice Project Pakistan
P. Sainath, Founder Editor, People’s Archive of Rural India
A.R. Vasavi, National Institute of Advanced Sciences (retired), Bangalore
Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karmachari Andolan

This conference is made possible by generous support from Ranvir and Adarsh Trehan and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, with additional support from the: Department of History, Department of Anthropology, Global Media Studies Initiative, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Program in International and Comparative Studies, Donia Human Rights Center, Islamic Studies Program, and the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. This conference is funded in part by a Title VI federal grant from the US Department of Education.