Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities #ISSH2019

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Chairing the conference (note, no actual chair)

An International Conference at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

Innovations are the key. In method and analysis, in the ways in which scholarship engages with society and organisations today, there can be no doubting the relevance of the social science and humanities to all our pressing questions. The Innovations discussed at the conference challenged our thinking. The topics were wide-ranging and varied, the approaches distinctly alive; some of the papers demonstrated a vivid combination of theoretical and practical research, some were insistently in a humanities’-oriented style, others more forthright and strictly social science, and still others experimented with the form and tone of the social sciences. Perhaps while bringing new methods to Vietnam, the creativity of the social sciences and relevance of the humanities for contemporary understanding was brought out even more by the diversity of themes and perspectives. Of course the traditional scholarship of the social sciences was also represented, but in writing that has an urgency and verve that excited discussion.

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Guido Abbattista, University of Trieste (middle)
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Professor Guido Abbattissta from the University of Trieste in Italy said the conference ‘was an exciting experience’. Dr Arnab Choudhury from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said it was an ‘immensely wonderful conference, by far one of the most well-organised conferences I have ever attended’.
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Stephen Muecke Flinders University

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The featured keynotes included a powerfully engaging presentation from Professor Stephen Muecke of Flinders University Australia. Prof Muecke is a hugely important voice in cultural studies and theorist of notions of the cultural landscape and ways of reading cultural relations between settler and Aboriginal Australia. His explanation of the walking method innovated by Aboriginal traditional landholders will inspire reflection and new practices, and perhaps some in Vietnam will want to take up the invitation of Aboriginal elder Paddy Roe to visit Western Australia and walk the ancient dreaming tracks near Broome with his family.
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Professor Joyce Liu (NCTU Taiwan) and Professor Ursula Rao (Uni Leipzig, Germany)

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A keynote lecture by Professor Joyce Liu from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, on new methods of inter-Asian joint and multi-site research inaugurated a perspective on political and cultural research that promises new opportunities for collaboration and debate across borders. She spoke with an engagement that should never be sacrificed in scholarship while there are so many urgent and relevant issues upon which scholars must comment as the leading presenters of, explorers of, and advocates for ideas.

The conference as a whole addressed debates about why innovation and new methods in the social sciences and humanities in Vietnam are needed. This was to respond to clear demands within Vietnam for such methods and enthusiasms (perspectives of a number of Government and non-Government agencies have supported this with relevant statements, such as the government Global Challenges position papers in 2018, and the work of independent research units like Social Life). Mild Hombrebueno from the Philippines said she had ‘learnt a lot from the conference, built new networks, friendships and linkages’ and claimed enthusiastically:

‘I have been to other international conferences, but so far, this is the best experience I’ve ever had. The host university and the organizing committee were so accommodating even up to the last leg of the program. It was indeed full of intellectual discussions, where I made many realizations’

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Professor Rao

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Participatory development projects need a new lease of life and a major rethink – and this was provided by Professor Ursula Rao from the University of Leipzig in Germany as she explored new thinking on the challenges of development in anthropology.

Ms Hombrebueno again commented:

‘meeting with Prof. Rao and her advocacy on Shaping Asia is just so exciting one! I am grateful [to have] the chance to be with the team’

Professor Elaine Carey from Purdue NorthWest in Indian a, USA, spoke on women and research on drugs in the archive, the depredations of the war on drugs and the lives of women drug lords were fascinating topics, with side excursions into the interests of American author William Burroughs and images from the press of mid-20th century Mexico and South America. The thinking here was deep as well as a gripping story – if there are no short cuts and no easy solutions, we are challenged at least to think hard – and it is also an inspiration to hear how we can also care about writing well, and hear this from the leading international scholars of our times.
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The conference had articles/panels on over 40 topics by cutting edge thinkers and on themes that remain urgent and pressing – for example, there was a session on the new area of sociobiology, there was the panel on education provision and socialization with a discussion of Vietnam and Australia on higher education successes. There was an engaging panel on participatory methods as a research tool eminently suited for new ways of doing research in the social sciences and humanities. Experts were involved and risking their ideas and critiques in every panel of the conference, though the discussions also spilled over into conversations in the corridors and in cafes afterwards. And the conference will continue to have an impact on scholarship in Vietnam and the region because the papers were published in a conference volume and some will be rewritten for journals and books in the coming months. The effect of the conference will help make TDTU one of the major centres in Vietnam for discussion of new research in these areas.
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The conference was open-ended and its assessment will continue long afterwards, with consequences that will shape ongoing research. As such, the papers presented are not only about new results, so much about new ways of going about getting those results and discussing those results – fostering a culture of research in the Universities that are open to the experience of social change, the challenges of the times and globally, shifting the locus of advanced research towards the region again, so that perhaps we will begin to arrest the so-called brain-drain where so much budding talent leaves the country for several, sometimes many, years . The conference will be part of a much-needed boost to refresh the social sciences and humanities.
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ISSHo (9)
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The key point to make is: that with such a large number of regional delegates – from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines – and a significant number of wider international guests – from the USA, Europe and Australia – this conference can be seen as a crucial establishing part of the project of making Vietnam, and TDTU, a key hub in the region for discussions about innovative research in the social sciences and humanities. It is highly appropriate then that this conference was held at TDTU – a young university, able to do things in a creative and exciting new way. We can only hope for more of this.
JH
Roshni Kamalika Giocvanni
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Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, saying…

From The Undercommens: Fugitive Planning and Black Study:

Harney and Moten 2013-30Harney and Moten 2013-29

 

So, as a youngster heading out to do what damage I could to the world, I inadvertently joined, as if by accident and certainly by bluff, a research project in which, in the end, it turned out that the leader, when report time came around, decided that the report back to the funding council should say that I had been incapable of doing the research required. This  because I was too cautious in not wanting to orientalise the other,. Damning indictment. I saw the thing rather differently – having joined the project to maim it, there was nothing cautious in a critique of lame versions of identity, hybridity, and oooh, culture. The critique of ethnomusicology logically followed, for form’s sake, and of exoticism, of egoistic cult scholarship and professor-ism, of the inheritance of baubles and trinkets of election to a clergy that no-one believed, not even themselves. There wasn’t even any need to condemn them as they condemned themselves, and the riposte ‘I thought you were dead’ still brings laughter and joy. In amongst the ashes and horrors, and rent-a-kill terrors. They do have the resources that still make some things possible, get in an grab some, since soon it will be gone. And all the while give some back, not just lip – I have lent out more books than I own, and I own a lot of the bloody things. leaving them lying around (though particular about not leaving them spine open, or on a wet bench. Yes, bloody things they are – written in letters of blood and fire, shares of a capital produced through pain and struggle just to escape beyond the enthusiasm-sucking routine of having to pay the rent and feed the kids while syphoning a substantial packet off into projects, and more books, because, yes, the research councils were a bit wary after that. Oh, and then apparently named the enemy of anthropology from within. I’ll take that too. With chips. More soon.

International Conference on Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

International Conference at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Innovations are the key. In method and analysis, in the ways in which scholarship engages with society and organisations today, there can be no doubting the relevance of the social science and humanities to all our pressing questions. The Innovations to be discussed at the conference challenge our thinking. The topics are wide-ranging and varied, the approaches distinctly alive; some of the papers demonstrate a vivid combination of theoretical and  practical research, some are insistently in a humanities’-oriented style, others more forthright and strictly social science, and still others experiment with the form and tone of the social sciences. Perhaps bringing new methods to Vietnam, the creativity of the social sciences and relevance of the humanities for contemporary understanding is brought out by the diversity of themes and perspectives. Of course the traditional scholarship of the social sciences is represented, but in writing that has an urgency and verve that will excite discussion.

The features include a keynote lecture by Professor Stephen Muecke, a hugely important voice in cultural studies and theorist of notions of cultural landscape and ways of reading cultural relations between settler and Aboriginal Australia. His walking method will inspire reflection.

A keynote lecture by Professor Joyce Liu on new methods of inter-Asian joint and multi-site research inaugurates a perspective on cultural research that promises new opportunities for collaboration and debate across borders, and with an engagement that should never be sacrificed in the social science and humanities. There are many urgent and relevant issues upon which scholars must comment as the leading presenters of, explorers of, and advocates for ideas

The conference as a whole addresses debates about why innovation and new methods in the social sciences and humanities in Vietnam are needed. This is to respond to clear demands within Vietnam for such methods and enthusiasms (perspectives of a number of Government and non-Government agencies have supported this with relevant statements, such as the government Global Challenges position papers in 2018, and the work of independent research units like Social Life).

Professor Ursula Rao will explore new thinking on the challenges of development in anthropology. Professor Elaine Carey on women and research, in the archive, on drugs. There are no short cuts and no easy solutions – we are challenged to think hard with the leading international scholars of our times.

The conference brings articles/panels on 43 topics by cutting edge thinkers and on themes that are urgent and pressing – for example, there is a session on the new area of sociobiology by Jon Solomon and Samiksha Bahn, or there is the panel on education provision and socialization with discussion of Vietnam and Australia on higher education successes and problems. There is an engaging panel on participatory methods as a research tool eminently suited for new ways of doing research in the social sciences and humanities. Experts and serious scholars are involved in every panel of the conference, though the discussions will spill out into conversations and publications that will continue to have an impact on scholarship in Vietnam and the region. The effect of the conference is to make TDTU one of the hubs in Vietnam for discussion of new research in these areas.

The conference is open-ended and will continue long afterwards, with consequences that will shape ongoing research. As such, the papers presented are not only about new results, so much about new ways of going about getting those results and discussing those results – fostering a culture of research in the Universities that are open to the experience of social change, the challenges of the times and globally, shifting the locus of advanced research towards the region again, so that perhaps we will begin to arrest the so-called brain-drain where so much budding talent leaves the country for several, sometimes many, years . The conference will be part of a much-needed boost to refresh the social sciences and humanities.

The key point to make is: that with a number of regional delegates – India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines – and a number of wider international guests – from the USA, Europe and Australia – this conference can be a crucial establishing part of the project of making Vietnam, and TDTU, a key hub in the region for discussions about innovative research in the social sciences and humanities – highly appropriate then that this conference will be held at TDTU – a young university, able to do things in a creative and exciting new way.

More soon…

See https://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn

Jadavpur University and the pecuniary investment jealousy rag (need some infrastructure surely).

I don’t have cause to say so often enough, but I consider Jadavpur a second alma mater for me (just as second breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so is what I have learned at Jadavpur over 30 years sustaining). There is a long background behind this below, but those with the ability to read between the lines can make the necessary analytic dot joinings…

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 19.32.59

 

In a widely shared post on FB Somak Mukherjee writes passionately about what is being done to Jadavpur:

Friends and colleagues there [at JU]; I applaud your sense of integrity and courage. Stay safe. The machinery of politics is not merely random and arbitrary, but peculiarly random in its vengeful rhetoric.

Absolutely wonderful to see a large turnout yesterday for the protest procession. Current or former students, kudos to you.

A humble request in anticipation of a rising narrative, maliciously aimed at the students community of the university: that Jadavpur’s “aimless and disorganized environment/ politics” is the result of a decline in academic standard”. This rhetoric will find a large following/support in a rising section of Bengali bourgeoisie welcoming unprecedented cultural regression in our city/state. Political IT cells will ensure this narrative finds wide currency in tv shouting matches/whatsapp forwards/facebook communities.

Nothing is further from the truth. Students/teachers/scholars there already know this. But please combat this narrative with consistency and conviction.

Jadavpur University is still among the top five public universities in the naton: an astonishing feat considering the comparative but consistent against state public universities in India in the last several decades. When looking at rankings, please consider the fact that IITs lack the diversity of disciplines taught here. There are Depts+schools+centers= almost 60 academic units alone in this university, outnumbering JNU. This university always punched above its weight in the national arena with a self assured recognition of being an underdog. It champions underdogs going beyond the tired binary of success/failure in meritocracy.

I had to do a little bit of research for an article about the recent academic progress of JU. Some facts:

a) Under a specific scheme of RUSA ( Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyaan) aimed at 10 state public universities, JU has been a rare exception in timely utilization of the funds disbursed in the last 4 years.

b) There are only two state public universities getting the coveted Institution of Eminence (IOE) tag: Jadavpur and Anna. If the 1000 Crores indeed get disbursed over the next five years, it can potentially double the university budget ( Proviso: this fund, apparently, cannot be allotted for additional posts: a MHRD criteria. Bizarre.) for research and overall infrastructure. Again, JU qualified despite the odds, countering indifferent and arrogant educational bureaucracy at the center. At least three major newspapers in only the last weeks have published confused and misleading news reports about 1. Amount of funding requested and, this is more crucial, 2. the proviso of state government providing the supplementary funds, attaching negative comments from state government officials. Again, apparently there is no proviso that the full funding is tied to supplementary funding from “bankrupt” state govern An independent verification and clarification of this might be useful.

3. 2018 FET placements have been astonishingly good.

Story 3 was tucked away in the corner of page 8 of a Bengali daily recently. Story 1 was hardly reported. Story 2, as I mentioned, has been reported in a confusing and self contradictory manner. My larger points: this fits a narrative of intention of the mainstream India ( English or vernacular) about which specific optics about the university should be fed to public discourse. The spectacle of passionate protest, while incredibly effective, can also take time in realizing the double edged sword of the media rhetoric. This is why the awareness of the institutional progress can be quite useful.

This university was once “unfashionably” nationalistic in pre-independence time. It did not care when critics railed against the university enrolling revolutionaries as mature students. This university employed one of the greatest 20th century Bengali poets despite his lack of formal ‘qualifications’. This university made a 25 year old founding HOD of its economics department. Then, it was made fun of for its suburban obscurity. Yet it thrived: because of its gloriously scattered intellectual currents relished the accusation of suburban subversions with delightful irony. Times changed: hell, KP took over jurisdiction. But JU remained sufficiently downmarket for the elite of the ‘proper south’ and yet marvelously dreamy for suburbia kids like myself.

I know these are deeply cynical times, but I will stick my neck out and say: best days for Jadavpur are yet to come. If you agree then good: strength of optimism can be quite revolutionary itself. If you disagree, then disregard this rant as an inevitable outcome of suburban longings. Jadavpur was never Calcutta’s university. It was/and still is, a gateway university.

The Higher Learning

“even the scholars occupied with the “humanities,” are at pains to find some colourable answer that shall satisfy the worldly-wise that this learning for which they speak is in some way useful for pecuniary gain” – Thorstein Veblen, 1919.

Veblen.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

building my TB fan site.

 

Also: “Among the immediate consequences of this latter feature, as shown in the example of the law schools, is a relatively high cost. The schedule of salaries in the law schools attached to the universities, e. g., runs appreciably higher than in the university proper ; the reason being, of course, that men suitable efficiently to serve as instructors and directive officials in a school of law are almost necessarily men whose services in the practice of the law would command a high rate of pay. What is needed in the law school (as in the school of commerce) is men who are practically conversant with the ways and means of earning large fees, that being the point of it all”  Veblen on p214 of The Higher Learning. [My italics]

JNU & University Strikes in Delhi

“On Friday, the Congress had voted — unsuccessfully —for amendments proposed by the CPM and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to the government’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill. But when the time came to vote on the bill itself, the Congress voted in favour”

Oh dear. Yet…

From the Telegraph 4th August 2019

Don’t rely on Parliament, MP Manoj Jha tells teachers

Jha called for street protests

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

 

Manoj Jha, a professor of social work with Delhi University, was addressing teachers gathered in solidarity with 48 of their JNU colleagues who face disciplinary charges for going on strike last year against alleged rule violations in appointments and the withholding of salaries.(Screengrab: RSTV)

Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha on Saturday asked protesting teachers not to depend any more on Parliament, a day after the Congress voted in favour of a law that empowers the government to declare individuals as terrorists even without trial.

Jha, a professor of social work with Delhi University, was addressing teachers gathered in solidarity with 48 of their JNU colleagues who face disciplinary charges for going on strike last year against alleged rule violations in appointments and the withholding of salaries.

The teachers say the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, which have been invoked against them, do not apply to university faculty, who are governed by the ordinances of their universities.

“I’m not talking about adversaries. They are known. You don’t know about those who stand with you as friends,” Jha said.

“Don’t ever any more rely on Parliament. Ultimately, when it comes to voting, friends disappear. There is a very good instrument called ‘walking out’. You say lots of things on a bill: ‘I disagree, I disagree, I disagree, I disagree’. And subsequently you walk out. What is that? You are helping the government muzzle your own voice.”

He went on: “Probably, you will have to create a ’75-like situation (that triggered the Emergency). Let’s work on it. Let’s take away responsibilities from the political parties and politicians not because of anything else but simply because they are suffering from drudgery. They have started believing that there is no alternative…. You don’t always cross the floor from here to there. You disappear from the floor.”

Jha called for street protests. “They have won the majority; they are winning in Parliament. The only space they are not winning is the universities, JNU being one. But there are hundreds of universities in this country where there are voices of dissent. You can’t defeat them in elections.”

He added: “Let’s gherao Parliament itself; let’s talk about coming in big numbers. I only see hope in that. Otherwise, I can’t tell you the way I have seen legislative business (conducted) in Parliament. I’m worried whether Parliament will have any meaning in the coming days.”

On Friday, the Congress had voted — unsuccessfully —for amendments proposed by the CPM and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to the government’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill. But when the time came to vote on the bill itself, the Congress voted in favour.

Earlier this week, the Janata Dal United and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had opposed the bill that criminalises the instant talaq but walked out after that. Several Opposition MPs too were absent during the voting.

Speaking to The Telegraph after Saturday’s event, Jha said: “I spoke out because whatever has happened in Parliament worries me as a citizen and an MP. The best fight is when you link anguish in the street with anger in Parliament. The anguish is there on the street, but the anger in Parliament has disappeared.”

The JNU 48 have received support from teachers’ unions across India and several renowned academics outside India, including Akeel Bilgrami, Arjun Appadurai, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, Partha Chatterjee and Sheldon Pollock.

After protests following the University Grants Commission’s attempt to bring all universities under the CCS rules, which govern bureaucrats, then human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar had last October tweeted: “We have neither put any restrictions nor intend to put any restrictions on ‘Freedom of Speech’ in JNU, Delhi University or any other university.”

Rajib Ray, president of the Federation of Central University Teachers Associations, said: “It (his tweet) was a blatant lie…. The attack is not on the 48 or 200 teachers, it is on higher education itself.”