Nordic newsletter 2 - 1 January 2017

NORDIC SOUTH ASIA NETWORK

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Contents:

Research Community News

• PhD thesis on Subaltern Urbanization and Census Towns in West Bengal

Srilata Sircar from the Department of Human Geography, Lund University, defended her doctoral dissertation entitled ”Between the Highway and the Red Dirt Track: Subaltern Urbanization and Census Towns in India” on Friday 9 December 2016. Venue: Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund. The faculty opponent was Tariq Jazeel, Reader at the Dept. of Geography, University College London (UCL), United Kingdom.
Sircar has been supervised at the department by Prof. Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt. 
Abstract: In the 2011 census of India, more than 2500 settlements have been newly inducted into the category of ‘census towns’ – the lowest size-class of urban settlements in India. This is a staggering figure in light of the observation that a comparable number constituted the total number of all urban settlements recorded since 1900. Furthermore, it has been revealed through aerial images, that a vast majority of these new census towns are situated away from million-plus metropolitan areas and are parts of smaller settlement agglomerations. This geographical phenomenon of small-town based urbanization independent of state planning has been termed subaltern urbanization. The study was conducted in West Bengal - the state with the highest share of new census towns. The fieldwork was carried out in two towns in the south-western districts of West Medinipur (Garbeta town) and Bankura (Jhantipahari town). Read more...

• Tribhuvan University representatives visited Lund University 

Lars Eklund, Hari Maya Sharma, Bal Mukunda Bhandari and Elisabeth Axell.

On Tuesday 6 September 2016, Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, Director, International Office, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, made a courtesy visit to Lund University, along with Hari Maya Sharma, Lecturer at Tribhuvan University and also a PhD Student connected to Aarhus University, Denmark. The visit was made in connection with a week-long stay in Denmark. Dr. Bhandari is in charge of the different collaboration programmes and MoUs that TU has with foreign universities, including several Danish universities, especially Aarhus, Aalborg and Roskilde.
In Lund Bhandari and Sharma met with Elisabeth Axell, Regional Coordinator for South and Central Asia at the Division for External Relations, Strategic Partnerships and Networks, Lund University, and SASNET deputy director Lars Eklund, both old acquaintences of Bhandari, who was involved in the 2012 Erasmus Mundus Action 2 Asia Regional mobility programme EMEA coordinated by Lund University (with TU being a partner university). More information about EMEA and other South Asia related Erasmus Mundus Action 2 programmes.
Lars also met Bhandari during an official SASNET visit to Tribhuvan University in 2012. Read more about the Kathmandu visit.
While at Lund Univerity, a meeting was also held with Associate senior lecturer Henrik Davidsson at the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment, discussing a Capacity Building project involving Tribhuvan University.

The current Danish-Nepalese collaboration projects are both partly funded by the Danish development assistance agency Danida. One project, MAGART, involves besides three Danish universities and Tribhuvan also one university in Kenya and one in Uganda.
A second project is The Platform for Stability, Democracy & Rights (PSDR). It has as its goal to strengthen human and institutional capacity in partner universities in line with the overall objectives of the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) initiative, and with a specific focus on academic focus areas that can feed into three of the priorities identified in the newly revised strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation, namely: 1) Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights; 2) Gender Equality; and 3) Stability and Fragility.
In Nepal, the Platform has identified three units as initial entry points for collaboration, namely the multi-disciplinary research institute Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) at TU, and two constituent campuses located in the Western Development Region, namely the small Gorkha Campus and the larger Prithvi Narayan Campus, Pokhara. More informtation about the project.

• SASNET board meeting approved organisational changes
Anna Lindberg and Lars Eklund
 

On Monday 10 October 2016, the Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET) held its final board meeting as an autonomous unit of Lund University. On 1 January 2017, an organizational change took place, and SASNET merged with the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), and became a subdivision of CMES.
The focus of SASNET henceforth will be on South Asia related research and teaching at Lund University. The members of the board approved the new organisation, but added that they hope that SASNET's brand continues to be independent and suggested that a reference group should be appointed with representatives from several faculties. The Board also emphasized the importance of SASNET’s national network function, and that it somehow may survive. SASNET should also be active in the upcoming new Asia strategy at Lund University.
Both Director Anna Lindberg and Deputy Director Lars Eklund have retired, Anna from 1 November 2016, and Lars from 1 January 2017. They were warmly thanked for their many years in SASNET service - Anna since 2007 and Lars since the launch of the network in January 2001. Dr. Andreas Johansson now takes over the chair position, and the board agreed to let Andreas become Acting Director (ställföreträdande föreståndare) already from 1 November. Two young post-doc researchers will also be employed as of January 1, 2017, on one-year project positions with a focus to seek external funding.
Since SASNET merges with CMES, this meeting was also the final one for the board that has been in charge of business since 2013 (information about SASNET’s board). From January 2017, the board of CMES takes over the responsibility.
Read the verified Minutes from the October 2016 meeting (in Swedish only). 

• Forte announces research project grants in the field of ageing and health

Elina Vidarsson, Liaqat Javed and Lars Eklund.

On Wednesday 23 November 2016, Liaqat Javed, Executive Director for the Backwards Rehabilitation and Improvement Commission Pakistan (BRIC), visited SASNET at Lund University. Javed had come to Lund - as part of a Sweden tour - on invitation from the regional outfit of ABF, Sweden’s largest adult non-profit educational organisation and a collaboration partner of SASNET. His mission is to share his experiences from workers’ rights among brick kiln workers in Pakistan. Being born in a family of bonded labour working in the brick kilns around Lahore himself, but later being able to get proper education and have his family set free from the debt slavery, Javed is a strong proponent of mobilizing the disadvantaged groups in his home country, exploited workers, tribal groups etc. In Lund a public seminar was organised by the Fairtrade City Lund organisation. 
Javed was accompanied by Christoffer Sjöstrand from ABF MittSkåne, and met with SASNET deputy director Lars Eklund and communications officer Elina Vidarsson at SASNET’s new office in Villa Norlind at Biskopsgatan 5. They had a fruitful discussion on the issues BRIC highlights, and possible future common actvities such as organising seminars. 
As a side effect of the meeting, Christoffer Sjöstrand (photo to the right) and the SASNET representatives agreed upon reviving the public brownbag seminars presenting Lund University’s South Asia research that ABF and SASNET organised during the period 2011-2013 at Lunds konsthall. A new series of lectures will be planned for the spring 2017.
It should be added that during his stay in Sweden, Liaqat Javed also visits several other places - Gothenburg, Skara, Stockholm among others - and organisations with which BRIC has established collaboration, for example Swedewatch, with an interest in investigating working conditions in the surgical manufacturing industry in Pakistan. More than 150 million surgical instruments are produced in Pakistan every year and the global market value amounted to € 277 million in 2013-2014. Many of the instruments reach hospitals in Sweden through Swedish suppliers. More information on the procurement of surgical instruments and the developments in Pakistan in a Swedwatch report from February 2015. Go for it.