Call for Papers – University of Copenhagen

5th International ADI Conference: 13-14 June 2013                                Asian Dynamics Initiative – University of Copenhagen

Call for abstracts
Abstracts (no more than 250 words), title, name and affiliation should be submitted by 15 January 2013 to the organizing committee via Marie Yoshida

*** Last chance for submitting abstracts: 31 January 2013 ***

Over the past fifty years we have witnessed phenomenal economic growth in Asia, lifting millions of people out of poverty, and propelling many Asian nations to premier ranks in the global order. In order to alleviate the poverty of the remaining population and to keep up with demographic growth, we are told that more economic growth is needed. As the 21st century unfolds, Asia (alongside the rest of the world) finds itself at a crossroads as it must come to terms with seemingly endlessly growing demand for everything from affordable energy to clean water, cars, mobile phones, medical and banking services and education. But as the social and ecological costs of the accelerating use of resources, goods and services become more apparent, economic and demographic growth looms as both promise and peril.

Economists have over the past few decades debated whether the rapid growth experienced by Asia's many tiger economies has been 'miraculous' or rather just a matter of convergence with the West. The key question in this debate has been whether income per capita levels in these countries were rising chiefly because of the accumulation of physical capital and longer working hours or because of technological progress and human capital gains. With growth slowing to ‘Western’ levels in many of the forerunner Asian economies, some suggest that we indeed have witnessed a process of convergence.

But the concept of growth has not only been central to economic theory and – as its corresponding counterpoint – ecological critique, but also to social and cultural theories of societal and civilizational transformation. In Asia as elsewhere, economic growth goes hand in hand with ideas of progress and development, which increasingly challenge universalizing Western notions of modernity. This is expressed in diverse claims to uniquely Asian civilizational paths and teleologies that inform policies and are associated with sociocultural growth – as in Japan’s WW2 ‘Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’, in ASEAN, in Islamic expansion drives, and in China’s post-neo-Confucian visions of modernity. What is the appeal of growth visions, what are the pitfalls, and what are the alternatives?

In the 18th and19th centuries, the biological metaphor of growth became associated with the then novel concepts of economy, society, and culture as national attributes. Growth was closely connected with notions of progress, evolution, civilization and – later – development, substituting stable or cyclical visions of history that looked to the past for inspiration, for a forward-looking, future-oriented subjectivity.  As the notions and practices of growth were created in the twin contexts of international and market competition in which they were simultaneously also situated, growth ‘outgrew’ its biological roots. Within biology, no organism can grow forever without killing itself and/or its environment. As a social concept, in contrast, growth has become an end in itself that does not recognize the limits that are inherent in the biological notion of growth.

This conference critically examines the notion of growth and the ways in which it is shaping social-political landscapes in Asia. We define and question growth in this very broad sense, implying that quantitative changes are inevitably accompanied by qualitative transformations, and paying equal attention to the intricate interconnectedness of naturally occurring growth and human interference as well as to its limitations, stagnation, decline and renewal. Understood in this extended sense, the term and related concepts can be fruitfully used to explore social, economic and cultural processes across time and space within the macro-region of Asia (and beyond) from cross-disciplinary perspectives. 

Based on this notion of growth not as an autonomous, self-determined entity but as the outcome of close and constant interaction between nature and purposeful human action, at this conference we propose to rethink and scrutinize this concept not just from an Asian perspective, but equally importantly, from multi-disciplinary vantage points that we present in the three clusters of questions below:

  • How should we understand growth in Asia and how should we go about researching it? Is growth the most pertinent way for us to account for the kinds of socio-economic and cultural processes that countries in Asia are currently undergoing? Can we identify certain ‘cultures of growth’ relevant to Asia? How is growth reflected upon and ‘translated’ into visual and literary representations and into popular discourse?
  • From an economic point of view several interesting questions arise when it comes to the newly industrializing countries in Asia. Is growth built mainly on factor accumulation as was the case with the Asian growth forerunners or does technological progress play a bigger role this time around? What is the effect of growth on welfare and happiness? Does growth instigate changes in political rights? Does it have an impact on environmental quality and on global warming? Is rapid growth associated with more or less (regional) conflict? What is happening to inequality and poverty?
  • What are the downsides and dangers of the ‘spectacular growth’ that has characterized many Asian economies?  Under what circumstances are forms of growth associated with progress and development and when does it connote negatively as an impediment in the way of human happiness? How is growth experienced on the ground? How is it conceptualized by marginalized groups situated away from the centres of power?

We invite abstracts (no more than 250 words) that reflect the questions above, but we also welcome other perspectives relating to the overall theme of the conference. 

Panels envisioned for the conference.

15 Jan 2013   Deadline for submitting abstracts
15 Feb 2013   Notification of acceptance
27 May 2013  Deadline for submitting paper