18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies

18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies held at Lund, Sweden, 6–9 July 2004

Conference impressions and expressions!
Thursday 8 July – Joint Session On Poverty and Human Development Held in Lund

The Joint session on “Poverty and Human Development in South Asia” was held on Thursday 8 July evening, following the panel discussions that went all through the third day of the conference.

Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta from the Aga Khan University, Karachi; Dr. Ghanshyam Shah from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Dr. Meera Nanda from Hartford, Connecticut, were the key note speakers of this joint session. More information on this joint session, led by Dr. Alia Ahmad, Lund University.

In panel no 10 held earlier in the day violence against women in Pakistan was discussed in a paper presented by the panel co-convenor Adeel Khan from the University of New England, Australia. He pointed to the male perception of violence against women in Pakistan. Socio-cultural determinates of violence against women were discussed and analysed in this discussion. According to Adeel Khan dowry has spread from Hindu culture to Pakistan. Regarding the caste he noted, “There is a caste system in Pakistan but it is different from the caste system that exists in India.” The way that state contributes to the low status of women in Pakistan was an issue that was being discussed during the session.

Rafat Hussain from the same university presented her paper on “Discrimination and Violence Against Women”, on different ways of violence against women as well as the processes involved. Rafat Hussain explained the women’s perceptions and experiences of violence and discussed this issue in the context of human rights, women’s empowerment, gender and development.

Meanwhile, scholars attending Panel 19 were following the discussions of connections betweeen British India and Burma. Dr. Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), Head of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, Calcutta University, presented a paper on “A close View of Encounter between British Burma through the Period from 1886-1937.” She discussed the close contacts between British Bengal and British Burma. Chakraborti pointed out that the people of Bengal came close to Burma as they shared many common experiences in the field of religion, culture, beliefs and material life. She pointed to the Buddhist Renaissance of the late 19th century that swept over America, England, Germany, Ceylon, Siam and Burma.
Shobna Nijhawan from University of California, Berkeley, presented her paper entitled “We and They: A Hindi Feminist Ethnography on Burmese Women.” This paper brought up points about the female political activist Ramesh Wari Nehru that visited Burma to hold a series of lectures on social reforms and women’s education for Burmese social reformist and women’s organization.

The Panel on the political economy of Bangladesh had six presentations. Dr. Willem Van der Geest, the director of European Institute for Asian Studies, Brussels, presented a discussion on trade liberalization growth and development. Van der Geest expressed the points in regard to the liberalization and growth performance of South Asia since the early 1990s. The extreme degree of export specialization which Bangladesh experience in terms of sectors and products was also another issue that he pointed out.

There was an argument on Islamic Militancy in the Panel 49. Taberez A Neyazi from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, presented a paper entitled “Does Islamic Militancy Exists in India?” This paper provoked the participants of this panel to express for and against his ideas. Neyazi discussed the points related to the Islamic Militancy as referring to the existence of elements of militant political action within the Islamic corpus of beliefs and practices, Islamic concept of power and the situation of Muslims in the contemporary world, and the trends towards Islamic militancy in India.
He expressed the view that associating militancy with Islam is itself based on falsified notion of Islam as an aggressive religion spread through sword. “Islamic militancy is not possible in India because of India’s adoption of liberal democratic framework after independence” he noted. Neyazi also discussed the possibility of growth of Islamic militancy in India especially after the consolidation of Hindutva forces in the nineties. The audience of this panel was quite critical to his paper.


Behnoosh Payvar, (text and photo)

Masters student of South Asian Studies, Lund University