4th Critical Studies Conference, Kolkata

From: September 08, 2011 To: September 10, 2011

Kolkata Logistics City

The 4th Critical Studies Conference on the theme 'Development, Logistics, Governance' will be staged in September 2011 by the Calcutta Research Group. The conference will be coordinated with the Transit Labour Kolkata platform.

The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG or the Calcutta Research Group) in collaboration with various other institutions has held in the in the last six years three critical studies conferences. The first conference held in 2005 was on “What is Autonomy?” The second conference held in 2007 was on “Spheres of Justice”. The third conference held in 2009 was on “Empires, States, and Migration”. The aim of these exchanges of ideas and scholarly works has been to promote critical thinking on issues affecting our lives. These exchanges have been inter-disciplinary, intense, and directed towards new thinking and ideas.


The Fourth Critical Studies Conference will be on “Development, Logistics, and Governance”. It will be held on 8-10 September in Kolkata. The University of Western Sydney and the University of Bologna will collaborate with CRG in holding the conference. The conference will be preceded by a special workshop on “Transit Labour”, which will engage in a comparative study of labour in transit, emergence of new forms of labour, and labour involved in logistical activities.



CRG along with collaborators has worked in the past on themes related to autonomy, rights, popular ideas of social justice, and transformations in the mode of governance in the post-colonial era. These themes and lines of inquiry have reached a stage where we need to discuss in a frame of historical sociology the main way/s in which our societies are being transformed by logistical operations in governance, the particular post-colonial nature of this logistical transformation, and the role that various forms of mobility and flows play in shaping logistical governance in post-colonial milieu. It seems to us that the notion of logistics will give this proposed conference on the dynamics of developmental governance the ballast to map out and navigate this landscape of flows, governmental responses, and the massive transportation and communication-centric network emerging in the process. Logistics is here conceived as a grid of responses to certain social challenges that the task of governing a society faces – challenges that can be briefly described as challenges of security, population movements, and territorial flux in the internal organisation of the State. Such a conference calls for an inter-disciplinary approach in a broad historical overview, which can account for the great changes in logistical management of the Indian and other societies.


The Conference will probe questions like: What is logistics in the eyes of government? Logistics had its roots in the war model of organization, politics and the specific apparatus of that organisation. Thus in any construction of a war model, what are taken into account are considerations of logistics – therefore of movement of men and vehicles, communication, civil supplies, storage, terrain, facilities of entry and exit, construction of walls, canals, roads, trenches, depots, and bridges, or negotiating them, and finally watch and gaze, therefore of constructions of towers, and routes of policing and patrol – considerations uppermost in army planning. All these also imply particular way/s a territory for war making is to be was organised, such as choice of terrain, season, etc. All these as the histories of war reveal, are primarily a matter of logistics and logistical planning.


Equally important will be the issue for discussion: How much of this war mode of governance has been incorporated in civilian mode of governance? In order to govern societies, how is “control of bodies” ensured? One can add to these queries the insights and the experiences of a post-colonial society such as India, where the imperative of development is acute, and the idea of “development” has caught hold of nationalist imagination to an almost unimaginable extent, adding new impetus to logistics and logistical planning of the society. War and development, or to be more precise, the war mode and developmental mode of politics have coalesced to give logistical planning a new urgency in governmental thinking and rationality. This is a new situation unanticipated in traditional theories of government.


The real “logistical age” in the social narrative of India began in the last twenty years, based however on the long lineage of the railways and telegraph To name some of the eye catching developments in the recent years: massive construction of border roads, airports, opening up of the Indian sky to private airlines, new highways, gas pipelines, hi-tech cities, satellite monitoring, news technologies in climate forecast, improved capacity of disaster management, spurt in surface transport, increase in container traffic, new software for networking information and agencies, new and longer transmission lines, improved telecommunications including satellite phones and broadband services, increased capacity to deploy human power and material, enlarged storage capacity, new townships, and finally new defence equipments. These things - more than anything else, like as new industry, or improved agricultural productivity, or increase in small irrigation, or sustained entrepreneurship at local level, or massive increase in primary education and primary health services - are the marks of development. They are also the staple agenda of governance. In such cases, logistical awareness is more like an inbuilt feature of governance, guiding governmental rationality. In all these again, one has to note the gradual emergence of a redesigning of the territory, and thus a re-division of labour. For instance, there are logistical divides marking the territory. Again, different kinds of flows mark the territory differentially.


The conference proposes to be an occasion for exchanges on studies on logistical governance. We invite panels / papers on related themes such as:


  • The logistics of population mobilisation, control, management, and the phenomenon of transit labour
  • Developmental logistics
  • Logistics of elections
  • The development of border roads
  • Disaster Management
  • Impact of military administration on civilian governance
  • Control regimes of mobile diseases
  • The economy of logistics


The last date for sending proposals and abstracts is 31 March 2011, and the last date for receiving papers will be 31 July 2011. Please send proposals or abstracts to


CRG will have no fund for travel assistance to participants. However it will provide accommodation for 3 nights. The registration fee for the conference will be Rs. 500 (Five hundred rupees) only.