Monday, January 13, 2014

CFP: Mobilities and Exceptional Spaces in Asia

8 - 9 July 2014
Asia Research Institute (ARI), Seminar Room, Tower Block Level 10 
469A Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770, NUS Bukit Timah Campus

Asia has seen rapid and profound transformations in the context of contemporary globalisation, and changing practices of capitalism have produced new forms of connections, flows and mobilities in the region. For example, the development of supply chain capitalism and its spread from manufacturing to the service sector has changed the international division of labour. New economic and political powers such as China and India have gained prominence not only as sources of low-skilled labour power and low-value products, but also as globally prominent players that produce a wide range of services and commodities, which are an integral part of a post-Fordist, information economy. New networked models of distributed production as well as newly emerging patterns of consumption have changed the face of the global economy, impacting on the ways in which labour and capital move transnationally.
Changing modes of capital accumulation and distribution intersect with the increased use of ‘exceptions’ or ‘special rules’ to maximise capitalist profits. Special economic zones are one example of state sovereignty applying the logic of exception to forge a new relationship with global capitalism. Ranging from the Greater Mekong Sub-region and the ASEAN Free Trade Area to the more recently opened Shanghai Free-Trade Zone, many Asian countries have benefited from such special zones in recent decades, the use of which has become a staple strategy to achieve economic reform and industrial development through attracting foreign capital.

Spaces where exceptions and special rules operate to maximize capitalist profits are not all geographically bounded. Exploitation of ‘flexible labour’ absolves employers from the responsibility to provide job security and welfare to which employees are otherwise entitled. Combining leisure and industrial activities in places such as integrated resorts is an example of generating certain mobile flows of domestic and transnational tourists and workers while increasing tourism consumption. These new formations which adapt or evolve from the "special zone" model demonstrate the versatility of the concept of "making special" or "making exceptional", and have the potential to transform fundamental notions of sovereignty, citizenship, rights, freedom, subjecthood, and mobility.

Exceptional space frequently requires the endorsement if not active creation on the part of the state, and therefore occupies a hybrid space between “neo-liberalisation and active state intervention” (Park 2005: 868). Powerful international donors and non-state actors such as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and large private enterprises also play significant roles in the making of spaces of exception.

Global capitalism thrives on and is worked through the use of exceptions, and ironically, such spaces are increasingly the norm. As is the case of special economic zones, spaces of exception are established selectively at first, with the intention of expanding their application more generally (Ong 2006). In many ways, the ‘normalised exceptional’ space is a strategy of neoliberal governance: by harnessing sovereignty to global capital,  the strategy also classifies the population for better surveillance, protects against political unrest, introduces reform in a controlled manner, and manage both the ‘dangerous’ class of workers and the middle-class comprising new professionals (Ong 1999). From exceptional spaces emerge certain rights, but this is also a form of control, be it conferring the privilege of lenient visa rules for expatriate travellers who enter free trade zones, or providing multiple entry visas to Chinese tourists who enter Japan through Okinawa. This exceptional regime both contrasts and combines with the more traditional disciplinary labour regime in its inclusion of features such as physical punishment, monetary penalties, compulsory overtime, control of the body, and the bonding of labour to employer through mandatory deposits (Chan & Xiaoyang 2003).
This workshop calls for fresh empirical research on a variety of spaces of exception in Asia to shed light on new ways capitalism works socially and culturally under contemporary globalisation. We welcome papers that address:
·   What new flows of capital, labour, money, consumer power are created by/in exceptional spaces?
·   What new transnational connections are being forged between people, or people and places?
·   What are some of the social, political and cultural impacts of flows, mobilities and connections that exceptional spaces facilitate in specific places, including at origin and destination?
·   How does mobility in/through exceptional spaces produce and maintain privilege and disadvantage?
·   What roles does gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and other identity markers/social categories play in how exceptional spaces are organised and experienced?
·   How do exceptional spaces interact with the rights of migrant workers-consumers in Asia where the kind of rights neoliberal exceptions have eroded in western nation-states have never been the norm?
·   What forms of discipline go on in ‘normalised’ exceptional space?
·   How do territory-based governmental powers (Glick Schiller & Salazar 2013: 191) interact with non-territory-based ones?
·   How do exceptional spaces change people’s sense of place and time?
·   What historical connections exist between the recent use of exceptional spaces and past phenomena including during the time of colonialism (Nyíri 2009)?
·   Other related issues.
We invite sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and scholars from associated disciplines to submit papers pertaining to these or related issues.

Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract of 350 words maximum and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 13 February 2014. Please send all proposals to Dr Kumiko Kawashima at For a copy of the submission form, click here.

Successful applicants will be notified by mid March and are required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000 - 8,000 words) by 8 June 2014. Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Participants are therefore encouraged to seek fund for travel from their home institutions. Full funding covers air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the workshop.


Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
E | 

Professor Brenda YEOHAsia Research Institute, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,
and Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

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