Knowing Asia Conference, Sydney

From: July 11, 2012 To: July 11, 2012

Katie Hepworth

The 19th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) will be held on the Parramatta Campus of the University of Western Sydney, 11 to 13 July, 2012, hosted by the University's Institute for Culture and Society, the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies. The theme is ‘Knowing Asia: Asian Studies in an Asian Century’.

Transit Labour has organised a series of 3 panels entitled Zones, Corridors, and Circuits to be held on day one of the conference. This series of three panels explores ways of knowing Asia through the zones, corridors and circuits that internally network it and join to other world regions. The papers build upon approaches to regionalism that emphasize patterns of trade and cultural traffic above civilizational continuities. They focus on the inconsistent and shifting relations between different kinds of economic, political, technological and juridical spaces that interact to create diverse legal orders, labour regimes and cultural styles. Some of the papers concentrate on the continuity between colonial protectorates, dependencies and trusteeships and present day spaces of capital accumulation and dispossession. Others focus on how present-day digital networks facilitate the circulation of capital and goods in ways that at once perform the work of global integration and lead to the production of diverse spatial niches. Together these panels present a view of Asian regionalism as the effect of particular, fragmented and material operations.


Panel 1: Zones: Beyond the Logic of Exception


Special economic zones have been crucial to the emergence of Asian economic power. This panel moves the debate about these spaces of production, labour and dispossession beyond the paradigm of flexible citizenship and graduated sovereignties. Rather than reading zoning technologies as a state strategy to accommodate global capital by declaring exceptions to law or other forms of normative regulation, it argues that they signal the emergence of new organizational formats that disarticulate jurisdiction from territory. Mindful of the plurality of different types of zones across contemporary Asia, the panel approaches them as social spaces that are saturated by competing norms and calculations. It thus treats them not as anomalous spaces but as paradigmatic sites that prompt processes of spatial and social reorganization well beyond their borders. The three papers investigate zones in China and India with an eye to the production of new kinds of labouring subjects and the disappearance of the citizen-worker.


Chair: Professor Sandro Mezzadra, Università di Bologna / ICS, University of Western Sydney, Italy


Between Cognizant and Infinity: Economic Zones in Shanghai and Kolkata

Professor Brett Neilson, ICS, University of Western Sydney, Australia


Zoning Space and Spacing the Zones: Accumulation and Unrest in Post-Colonial Capitalism

Professor Ranabir Samaddar, Calcutta Research Group, India


Conceptualizing Zones: Within and Beyond the Logic of Expertise

Giulia dal Maso and Mithilesh Kumar, University of Western Sydney, Australia 


Panel 2: Corridors: The Politics of Movement and Migration


Corridors delimit the borders of movement. This panel identifies how the containing operation of corridors defines a space of politics. With a focus on the movement of populations, the panel offers both historical and contemporary accounts of how corridors remodel space and in so doing bring into question the sovereign capacity to assert control through border regimes. The corridor also makes possible new lines of access, which may often correspond with new economies of depletion. Corridors are never secure and frequently subject to contingencies of sabotage, deviation and differential vectors of time. As such, the same corridor (energy, migration, communication) may consist of a heterogeneity of forms and agents. The papers in this panel register the politics that attend the intermingling of subjectivities and speed within the passage of the corridor. The panel suggests that corridors play a key role in shaping the material and imaginary borders of Asia.


Chair: Professor Ned Rossiter, SoHCA, University of Western Sydney, Australia


Corridors, Migration and Geographies of Power

Professor Sandro Mezzadra, Università di Bologna / ICS, University of Western Sydney, Italy / Australia


Corridors across the Indo-Bangladesh Border

Professor Paula Banerjee, Calcutta Research Group, India


Corridor and Node: The Logistical Geographies of Port Botany

Dr Katie Hepworth, University of Western Sydney / University of Technology Sydney, Australia


Panel 3: Circuits: Logistics, Labour, Programmed Spaces


Circuits route bodies and brains, finance and commodities as actionable things in space and time. This panel examines the interrelations between virtual work, IT industries and logistical software operations, which provide the computational architecture that governs global supply chains and the performance of labour using real-time event processing applications. The circuits of movement special to logistics are recasting the political and economic reach of Asia along what has been referred to in media reports and government policy as the New Silk Road. This process of re-engaging old trade routes as new is one that places China as a primary global power. But other countries within the Asian region are drawn into this cartography of transformation as well. Set against this context, these three papers identify how circuits of labour, life and things are mobilized in technological ways that are producing new logics of capital accumulation, control and freedom.


Chair: Professor Brett Neilson, ICS, University of Western Sydney, Australia


The Logistical City: Software, Infrastructure, Labour

Professor Ned Rossiter, SoHCA, University of Western Sydney, Australia


Transformation of Control in Circuits

Professor Athula Ginige, SoCEM, University of Western Sydney, Australia


The Global Commodity Chain and IT Industry in India

Ishita Dey, Calcutta Research Group, India