The Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh has been a key node of research on South Asia within the British academic landscape since 1988. Its success in the near three decades is largely due to the outstanding leadership provided by Professors Roger Jeffery and Patricia Jeffery in setting the Centre and steer it to be a leading centre for the study of South Asia in Scotland and within the UK.
While the Centre has benefitted from the stewardship of the Jeffery’s and other colleagues, such as Professor Crispin Bates and Jonathan Spencer, August 2015 marked a generational shift, with Drs Wilfried Swenden (SSPS) and Kanchana N Ruwanpura (Human Geography) taking over the helm. They are advised by a Steering Committee that draws in South Asia experts from across the School of Social and Political Science and all constituent Colleges in the University. To celebrate nearly three decades of South Asia research within the University of Edinburgh, the centre organised a ‘relaunch’ on 4 February 2016, which brought four distinguished academic guests to the University.
The one-day celebration benefited from the generous support of the School of Social and Political Science and the Global Justice Academy. The guests reflected the interdisciplinary nature of the centre and its variegated geographical interests and strengths. They comprised of Professors Katharine Adeney, Neloufer De Mel, Naila Kabeer and Ravinder Kaur – who work on Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, respectively, and bring together academic disciplines as diverse as Politics, English, Development Studies and Media Studies.
The day of activity began with a morning session, which was set aside for interaction between our four invited speakers and undergraduate and PhD students in South Asian Studies. Our undergraduate studies taking an optional course in South Asian Studies was present in full force and had prepared questions for our academic guests based on their scholarly contributions. This lead to a lively and rich session of Q &A during the morning hours, which was followed by more personal interactions among staff, PhD students and guests over lunch. In the afternoon, a two hour panel debate was moderated by Professor Jonathan Spencer, who sought to draw linkages and contrasts between democratization in Pakistan, gender differences in post-war Sri Lanka and the ‘commodification’ of India in the new globalized international political economy.
Following tea and coffee, we all walked over to the Edinburgh Centre on Carbon Innovation (ECCI) to be at a well attended public lecture by Professor Naila Kabeer, a giant and renown feminist scholar in development studies. In her lecture she spoke about struggles for gender justice by women’s movements that have sought to give legal recognition to gender equality at both national and international levels, with a focus on Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India (Rajasthan area). She pointed out that such society-wide goals championed by liberal feminists may have little resonance in the lives of individual men and women in contexts where a culture of individual rights is weak or missing and the stress is on the moral economy of kinship and community. While empowerment captures the myriad ways in which intended and unintended changes can enhance the ability of individual women to exercise greater control over their own lives, it does not necessarily lead to their engagement in collective struggles for gender justice. A reception and wonderful South Asian meal finished the day.
This one day celebration of South Asia will be followed by many more activities throughout the year. To keep you up to date with all our activities from seminars to teaching and hosting visiting scholars and professors, visit our web-site at http://www.csas.ed.ac.uk.