University of Wisconsin–Madison

Panelist Search Board

If you are seeking additional speakers to join your Panel or Round Table, or if you would like to find other Single Papers with which to create a Panel, you may submit your abstract below so fellow conference attendees can contact you directly regarding your proposal.

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Title: Ancient Wisdom or Primitive Treatment? Exploring the Perceptions Towards Alternative Medical Systems in South Asia

Abstract: In the world of fast paced innovations where societies compete globally with each other to be at the forefront, maintaining age old traditions is complicated. One such tradition in south Asia involves generations of physicians practicing indigenous medicine, otherwise known as Traditional Medicine (TM).  Westernization and globalization are not congruent with those who pursue the family trade of treating patients.  Individual nations trying to meet international standards are less sympathetic to these indigenous practitioners. For example, the mere invocation of TM itself brings about two dominant but opposing narratives:  one that holds that TM is unscientific in nature and thereby primitive while the other narrative regards TM as suffused with ancient wisdom with the capability of providing an effective alternative to bio medicine (especially in treating chronic illnesses without the risk of side effects to one’s body and mind). In between lay an array of narratives and claims involving various groups.  This panel is set to explore these points of view from the perspective of practitioners. The aim is to assess any changes to the modus operandi of TM practitioners as coping mechanisms and how this influence the TM itself.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Sree Padma (

Title: Gender and Mobility in South Asia

Abstract: Mobility is a highly gendered process in which the politics of access and equitable use manifest as uneven landscapes embedded in socio-cultural norms in variegated multi-contextual spaces. In Kathmandu endemic sexual harassment on crowded public transport has contributed to the recent growth in women using scooters creating their own safer mobility-scapes leading to a sense of independence and empowerment. Yet the politics of the state reifies its patriarchal control passing laws limiting women’s mobility such as the ban on women under thirty traveling abroad for work, rumors of a dress code for women driving scooters, and denying women equal citizenship transferal rights. This panel seeks to explore contemporary gendered Asian mobilities within trans-disciplinary fields. We will focus on lived mobility-scapes as continuously evolving processes that both inhabit and construct social landscapes nested in contested geo-political, political economic, multi-cultural, and imaginary landscapes. Using heterogeneous lens across disciplines this panel aspires to expand and articulate unfolding discussions concerning the intersection of gender and mobility in Asia.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Robert Beazley (

Title: The Sino-Indian Relationship in South Asia and Beyond

Abstract: India’s hegemonic position in South Asia is presently being challenged by China. The Sino-Indian relationship is complex. While economic cooperation is increasing, the countries also have a history of conflict and disagreement. In recent years tensions have surfaced with regard to border disputes, increased Chinese investments in India’s neighboring countries as well as with regard to China’s gigantic Belt and Road Initiative.

This panel addresses how China’s growth influences Indian strategic thinking. Two aspects pertaining to the Sino-Indian relationship stand out as particularly important. The first aspect is concerned with how China’s expansion influences India’s relations with its immediate neighbors. Relevant cases include how Indian strategic thinking responds to the China-Pakistan axis and how India approaches its neighbors to the north and east: Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The second aspect looks beyond the region of South Asian insofar as the panel addresses how India seeks to balance the expansion of China by entering strategic partnerships with countries outside the South Asian region, most prominently with Japan and the US. This latter aspect also has to be understood within the framework of India’s so-called Act East strategy, which emphasizes stronger cooperation with countries in South East Asia and East Asia, both economically and strategically.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Lars Tore Flaaten (

Title: Indigenous movements, land displacement, religious conversions, tribal identity

Abstract: This research project aims to explore the ways in which religious identity is articulated in resistance movements against mining and forced land displacements in Chhattisgarh, India. Due to an increased emphasis upon industrialization, the state government of Chhattisgarh has intensified the mining operations in the state and thus been actively engaged in facilitating land acquisitions. Concurrently, the indigenous communities involved in these movements have been repeatedly subjected to “missionization” by outsiders, whether evangelical Christians or recent Hindutva nationalists. But recently, the Gonds in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh have pushed back as they seek to regain their traditional religious practices and beliefs. This study aims to understand their new social and political movement in relation to religious change and the loss of traditional livelihoods.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel; Corresponding Single Papers to form a Panel

Organizer: Jay Prakash Sharma (

Title: Categories of Self-Description in South Asian Literature

Abstract: Texts often talk about themselves. Writers and poets encode information about themselves within their works, and often use their writing projects as exercises in self-fashioning. Taking the writing process to be purposeful and dynamic allows us to assess the underlying logics of self-presentations and their potential to both complement and contest arguments within dominant canons of information.

Focusing on self-descriptive moments within South Asian Sanskrit, Persian, and vernacular texts, this panel investigates the rhetorical ways in which writers articulate their individual or collective selfhood, and frame their social, religious, or economic positions by reinforcing existing affiliations or severing them to build new ones. Covering a range of religious and other cultural texts to discuss different categories of self-description, panelists will explore productive tensions of identity between self-narratives and perceived or stated popular narratives. They will study writers’ strategies of mitigating potential risks of their rhetoric being misinterpreted, and also address how patronage and alternate economies of exchange informed production and subsequent reception of such texts.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Iva Patel (

Title: Locating Alternate Sexualities in South Asian Film ad Media

Abstract: Cinema, as David Lynch says, is an idea that can translate ideas. History is defined by shifting modes of ideas- of reality, time and social changes. The representation of ‘alternate sexualities’ in the present times, through films and media, has undergone a considerable change in the context of South Asia. Soongava, released in 2012, is not only Nepal’s first film about lesbianism, but was also its official entry under the category of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ for the 86th Academy Awards. Alongside, the Pakistani film, Bol (2011), can be considered as a powerful commentary on the rigid patriarchal norms prevalent in Pakistan and its destructive effect on the people with ambiguous sexualities. While Bol created tremors within the Pakistani society, India had its own share of hullabaloo with films such as Chitrangada (2012), dealing with gender re-assignment surgeries, and the more recent Aligarh (2016). Although, the said films emanate a sense of progressivism which extends to some South Asian societies, we can locate points of rupture in certain depictions found in other films. Our panel seeks to engage in discussions pertaining to the reformatory as well as the distorting/dehumanizing potential that film and media has in its representation of non-heterosexual identities in South Asia.

The aim of this panel is to contemplate on the various representations of sexualities on the screen, both from the past and the present. Our central enquiry is whether such portrayals accentuate the institutionalized stereotypes, thus further ostracizing people of alternate sexualities (for example, depicting transgender people as comic or villainous) or humanize/normalize their orientations by eliminating prejudices. We would also be interested in looking at researches that suggest the importance and/or the methods of an ‘ideal’/better representation on the screen, because cinema is the most influential artform of our times (Beeban Kidron).

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Anwita Ray (

Title: South Asians in Northern Europe

Abstract: The panel focuses on the South Asia diaspora, experiences of (un)belonging, and race in Europe. One paper, “Writing Bangladesh: Secularism, Belonging, and Exile Bangladeshis in Nordic countries” focuses on the experiences of recent Bangladeshi migrants who are among those seeking refuge in other countries because of threats to their lives, ways of living, and efforts to reclaim a more inclusive Bangladesh. By focusing on the experiences of Bangladeshis, these writings complicate monolithic constructions of Muslim immigrant communities and their position within the ummah and in relation to both their past and present home countries. The study centers on secularists marginalized by revivalist Islam in Bangladesh in order to examine their claims of nationhood and belonging. The other paper, “Dublin Desis: Community and Connections for Ireland’s Indians” focuses on the growth of the Indian community during the early twenty-first century and the increased interest in and concern over issues such as education and integration. In 2007, the Irish government initiated a program, “Integrating Indians.” While the economic initiatives that prompted Indian immigration have slowed, the Indian community continues to be present in neighborhoods, offices, stores, and schools in greater Dublin and around the country. The Indians have settled in Ireland and are raising a generation of Indian Irish.

Seeking: Panelists for a Panel

Organizer: Savita Nair (

Title: Livelihoods and Inequality in the Eastern Indian Coal Belt

Abstract: In the mineral-bearing tracts of Jharkhand, eastern India, coal mining operations have been to a large extent concentrated in areas inhabited by tribal populations. They have caused land dispossession, displacement, and erosion of land- and forest-based subsistence patterns – all of which have accelerated considerably in recent decades in India and other parts of South Asia, and with which scholars of the region and its political economy have been increasingly concerned. This paper, which draws on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a tribal Santhal village adjacent to a large open-caste, state-owned colliery in Jharkhand, explores the actual, long-term impact of the changes brought by the mining industry on labor and livelihoods, social and economic relations, and local politics in the community. In particular, it examines the differential and often contradictory ways in which different groups in the village have been affected by, and responded to, the transformations brought about by mining in their proximity – from people who eke out a precarious living through the illegal peddling of scavenged coal; to those who have managed to obtain lucrative, permanent jobs in the coal company; to local political leaders who act as brokers between villagers and the company. The paper then analyses the broader meanings and ramifications of these shifts for the community as a whole, to argue that rather than simply the pauperization of marginalized communities, as is most often foregrounded in the literature, the main consequence of extractive, natural resource-based industrialization has been the generation of new and enhanced forms of inequality within the community.

Seeking: Corresponding Single Papers to form a Panel

Organizer: Itay Noy (

Title: Do Electoral Quotas Reduce Ethnic Violence?

Abstract: Ethnic electoral quotas have demonstrated distributional effects in terms of public goods provisions. But there have been no consensus on whether quotas have any effect on ethnic relations. This study addresses the gap in the literature by implementing survey experiments between districts of high and low ethnic violence in northern and eastern India. Using survey experiments, bolstered with data on ethnic violence and party competition, this investigation attempts to establish a causal link between electoral quotas and ethnic violence. The paper finds that implementation of electoral quotas for ethnic categories reduce violence in high violence areas. Violent districts having ethnic quotas show marked reduction in ethnic violence. The improvement comes from demand-side effect from voters in reserved constituencies, who reveal greater demand for security than unreserved seats. While demand for security from politicians is naturally greater in violent districts compared to peaceful districts, voters between normal constituencies and quotas in both types of districts largely prefer to vote for their own co-ethnics. Furthermore, when candidate’s ethnic backgrounds are known to voters, offering security relative to economic patronage is a better electoral strategy in violent areas than against offers of broadly targeted public goods, especially in reserved constituencies.

Seeking: Corresponding Single Papers to form a Panel

Organizer: Sayan Banerjee (