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The 5th International Crossroads Asia Conference: Area Studies' Futures

The field of area studies (AS) as traditionally conceptualised, organised and taught at universities has long been subject to worldwide debates, especially since the end of the Cold War. Conventional approaches to AS have been criticised for ethnocentrism and methodological obsoletism, creating fixed geographical ‘areas’, and solidifying regimes of (Western) power and hegemony. Consequently, AS have been described as unsuitable for the study of the modern world, as they fail to capture processes related to globalisation, and the increasing (im-)mobility of people, goods and ideas.

In 2011, the interdisciplinary research network Crossroads Asia was launched to tackle the question of how to conduct and position AS in the 21st century. In an effort to rethink AS ─overturn misconceptions of ‘the Other’ and challenge epistemic regimes─ the network has scrutinised traditional concepts and methods of AS and has explored novel research approaches related to multiple spatial realities, (im-)mobilities and (im-)mobilisation, borders and boundary-making/-weakening, and positionality.

The 5th International Crossroads Asia conference will provide a platform for sharing and discussing conceptual and methodological innovations in AS research that transcend traditional disciplinary approaches. Below is a schedule of events, all of which will be held at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, Germany.


Preliminary Conference Schedule

(last updated on 25.08.2016)


Thursday, Sept 22nd

10:30-12:30Pre-Conference Event with CrossArea e.V.: Situation der Area Studies in Deutschland (in German)


14:30-15:00Welcome Address by Crossroads Asia Coordinator Dr. Claus Bech Hansen

15:00-16:15Public Keynote Lecture by Prof. Shelley Feldman (Cornell University), Decommodifying knowledge: Recuperating the Interdisciplinarity of Area Studies


16:30-18:00Presentation of the book Area Studies at the Crossroads. Knowledge Generation after the Mobility Turn, edited by Dr. Katja Mielke (Bonn International Center for Conversion) and Prof. Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenökologie (ZMT) and University of Bremen)


Friday, Sept 23rd


09:00-10:30 — Session 1 Panels

Session 1: Querying Power Constellations and Destabilizing Epistemic Regimes

Panel 1a. Deconstruction of Western Knowledge and the Category ‘Other’
Chaired by Dietrich Reetz, Crossroads Asia, ZMO Berlin (tbc)

  • Anindya Sekhar Purkayastha (Kazi Nazrul University): Developmentalism, the Anthropocene and Associated Eurocentric Epistemic Structures in South Asia with a Specific Focus on India
  • Zarifa Mamedova (TU Dortmund): "Sultanism” and Political Culture in Turkmenistan
  • Andreas Mandler (ZEF, University of Bonn): Understanding Knowledge Hegemonies in Local Epistemic Cultures. Findings from Smallholder Farmers in Tajikistan

Panel 1b. Reshaping Places – Mastering Uncertainty: A Second Take on Area Studies in the Baltic Sea Region and Eastern Europe
Chaired by Claus Bech Hansen, Crossroads Asia, ZEF, University of Bonn

  • Rebecka Lettevall (Södertörn University): How Challenges to AS, Not Least From Globalization, Call for Critical Area Studies
  • Jenny Gunnarson Payne (Södertörn University): Fieldwork on Transnational and Trans-local Phenomena with Examples from Reproductive Medicine
  • Kazimierz Musial (Södertörn University): Reflection on Language Use and Linguistic Competence in Pursuing Critical AS

10:30-10:45Coffee Break

10:45-12:15 — Session 2 Panels

Session 2: Mapping the Socio-Spatial Complexity of Human and Non-Human Interactions

Panel 2a. Shedding Light on Agency and the Social Construction of Space
Chaired by Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Crossroads Asia, ZMT, University of Bremen

  • Henryk Alff (Crossroads Asia, FU Berlin) and Andreas Benz (Crossroads Asia, University of Augsburg): The Multi-Dimensionality of Space: Challenging Spatial Bias in the Production of Places
  • Patrick Köllner (GIGA Hamburg): Comparative Area Studies: What It Is, What It Can Do
  • Martin Sökefeld (Crossroads Asia, LMU Munich): Crossroads Studies and the State: Anthropological Perspectives
  • Manja Stephan-Emmrich (HU Berlin): Digital mediations: iPhones, Emotions and Piety in the Spatial Biographies of Tajik student travelers in Dubai

Panel 2b. Space, Place and Time
Chaired by Hermann Kreutzmann, Crossroads Asia, Free University of Berlin

  • Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi (Crossroads Asia, LMU Munich): The Temporality of Place: Shifting Spatialities in China’s Inner Asian Borderland
  • Thomas White (Cambridge University): Recognising the service of camels to the nation: spatial politics and non-human animals in China’s multiethnic borderlands
  • Madlen Kobi (Zurich University): An Ethnography of the Construction Site: Approaching the impermanence of Urban Places through the Lens of transforming Urban Built Environment in China

12:15-13:45Lunch Break

13:45-15:15 — Session 3 Panels

Session 3: Critical Conceptual and Methodological Intersections with Area Studies

Panel 3a. Exploring Methodological Limits and Possibilities in Area Studies Research
Chaired by Eva Youkhana, Crossroads Asia, ZEF, University of Bonn

  • Elena Trubina (Ural Federal University): Area Studies as the Challenge for Comparative Urbanism
  • Helena Cermeño (ZEF, University of Bonn): Access to the City: a Comparative Research of Urban Assemblages in Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan)
  • Cornelia Reiher (FU Berlin) and Sarah Ruth Sippel (University of Leipzig): Food and Area Studies: A New Research Agenda for Analyzing Power in the Global Agri-Food System
  • Maggie Paul (Tata Institute of Social Sciences): ‘Contingent Methodologies’ and Marginalized Migrant Populations in Bainganwadi

Panel 3b. Intersections of AS, Post-Colonial Studies, Cold War Studies and Future Studies, Taking the Example of Development Discourses (Roundtable Event)
Chaired by Shelley Feldman, Cornell University

  • Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Crossroads Asia, ZMT & University of Bremen)
  • Sandra Kurfürst (GSSC, University of Cologne)
  • Wolfram Schaffar (University of Vienna)
  • Ines Stolpe (University of Bonn)

15:15-15:45Coffee Break

15:45-17:15 — Session 4 Panels

Session 4: Positionality and the Space(s) of Knowledge Production

Panel 4a. Re-constructing Positionalities in Area Studies Research
Chaired by Epifania Amoo-Adare, Crossroads Asia, ZEF, University of Bonn

  • Elena Smolarz (Crossroads Asia, University of Bonn): Frontier, Borderland, Space-in-Between. Conceptualizing the Space of Encounter and Interaction in the Kazakh Steppe of 19th century Academic Discourse
  • Lenny Martini (ZEF, University of Bonn): A Positionality Reflection of a Native Researcher in Bandung, Indonesia
  • Jelena Gledic (Belgrade University): Shaping Science: Area Studies and Empirical Research of “Asians”
  • Bianca Boteva-Richter (University of Vienna): Home and Homelessness in and Through Migration. The Un-Place as the New Global Localisation

Panel 4b. Borders and the Politics of Belonging
Chaired by Conrad Schetter, Crossroads Asia, Bonn International Center for Conversion (tbc)

  • Antía Mato-Bouzas (Crossroads Asia, ZMO Berlin): (B)ordering and the Politics of Belonging
  • Just Boedeker (Berlin): Longing for a State – Belonging to an Anti-State and, Above All: Being Betwixt and Between
  • Gennaro Errichiello (Loughborough University, UK): The Politics of Belonging. The Pakistani community in Dubai
  • Seema Kazi (Center for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi): Borders, Conflict, Belonging: Kashmir and Manipur
  • Eva Youkhana (Crossroads Asia, ZEF, University of Bonn): A Conceptual Shift in Studies of Belonging and the Politics of Belonging

17:15-17:30Closing remarks



More Information

You can find information about the conference speakers here

Find the map with directions to the venue here.

A conference poster and flyer will be available for download shortly.


How to Register

There is no fee for attending the conference, but you must register by sending an email to crossroads(at)uni-bonn.de containing your name, your institute and your email address, with the subject line “Registration for Crossroads Asia Conference 2016” before 11 September 2016.

Call for Papers