Governing Difference – Københavns Universitet

Conveners: Ravinder Kaur, Associate Professor, South Asian Studies, Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, and Ayo Wahlberg, Postdoc, Dept. of Anthropology



Room 21.1.15 (building 21, 1st floor, room 15)
South Campus (New KUA), University of Copenhagen
Njalsgade/Karen Blixens Gade, 2300 Copenhagen S

This workshop explores the notion of ‘difference' - as identity, opposition and even resemblance - in its multiple meanings and settings, and the ways in which it plays out in the social-political landscape. Moving away from the idea of difference as essential or natural, we explore how difference is constructed, manifested and obscured in socially uneven societies, particularly those fuelled by neoliberal economic growth in the recent years.

Consider the following: nations like India and China struggle to govern tumultuous differences within - inequities and inequalities constitutive of the socio-economic and political terrain; rich/poor; urban/rural; cosmopolitan/vernacular - accentuated by the neoliberal market reforms, even as they seek to project outside a unified ‘national difference' that can compete profitably with other nations on a global scale. Difference, here, at once, is a desirable condition in relation to the concept of ‘global nation' as well as a challenge that threatens to unravel the very weave of the nation. A case in point is the making of nation brand-identities in the postcolonial context specifically targeted at the global markets, and the social-political tensions, often violent, underpinning these seemingly smooth processes. The uneven economic growth, the rise of an expansive middle class and a similarly burgeoning, though less spectacular, demography of the poor within the emerging powers in the global south suggest a landscape that has not yet been fully explored. How is difference articulated, desired, levelled, governed and even subverted in such a landscape? What role do state agencies play as they mediate between their own populations and global standards of development and governance? How, and if, political forms and frames - for example, popular comparisons of a democratic India and an authoritarian China - affect the ways in which difference is governed by the state authorities?

Possible themes include:
- technologies of governance (state policies, global standardization)
- new identity formations
- mediation and representation of difference
- political contestations
- subversion of national difference