GLASS Lectures

All GLASS Visting Scholars will give a lecture that is open and free to the public.

May 17, 2016 - Ann Stoler

Professor Ann Laura Stoler (Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research in New York)

Diffracted Histories and Colonial Recursions in these Times
This talk poses a simple question: how do colonial histories matter in our contemporary world? Might we think of this moment, not as one of a colonial past or colonial present but one in which a colonial presence pervades sensibilities and evades easy recognition, as it still carves out the jagged political lineaments and fault lines of unequitably distributed duress  today. Challenging us to reconsider the categories and concepts on which understandings of colonial effects have relied, it calls for concept-work that attends not to the fixity of concepts, but to their fragilities and filiations, and the political logics and foreclosures which they support. 

October 15, 2015 - Dipesh Chakrabarty

Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty (Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College at the University of Chicago)

Scales of History: On Subaltern, Global, and Planetary Studies
This lecture will look at the question of how conceptions of history that emerged out of postcolonial and global contexts of the late-twentieth century fit in or conflict with emergent ideas about very large-scale Big or Deep Histories. The lecture will also discuss possible futures, in an age of major planetary problems, for historiographical traditions that once sought - and perhaps still seek - to critique Eurocentric constructions of the world.


December 9, 2014 - Clare Harris

Professor Clare Harris (Visual Anthropology and Pitt Rivers Museum Curator for Asian Collections, University of Oxford)

Remembering to Forget in Contemporary Tibet: Presenting the Potala Palace as 'Heritage'
Apart from the Taj Mahal, few historic structures in Asia can compete with the iconic potency of the Potala Palace in Lhasa the erstwhile capital of Tibet. Both these seventeenth century edifices appear to fulfil one of the basic definitions of a monument: they are dedicated to the commemoration of an absent person. But whereas the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan deliberately set out to create a ravishing mausoleum for his wife, the Potala has only become a monument since 1959 when the fourteenth Dalai Lama fled Tibet and sought exile in India. As the supreme embodiment of the Tibetan cause travelling the world in its pursuit, the Dalai Lama’s mobility contrasts greatly with the stubborn immovability of his palace: a building which for many Tibetans now stands as a painful memorial to his absence from the homeland. This talk considers the transformation of the Potala from its previous roles as the residence of the Dalai Lamas, the institutional heart of Tibetan Buddhism and the administrative base of the Tibetan government, into an empty shell that is emphatically claimed as the property of the People’s Republic of China. It examines the processes by which a building of enormous religious and political significance to Tibetans has been converted into a heritage site that fulfils the criteria of UNESCO and a tourist destination that appeals to both domestic and international visitors. In teasing out the tensions arising from heritage discourse at this site, I argue that in contemporary Tibet monumentalisation has less to do with eliciting memory than with a state-led agenda of "organised forgetting" (Connerton).

March 5, 2014 - Caroline Humphrey

Professor Dame Caroline Humphrey (Social Anthropology, Cambridge University/Director of MIASU)

The lecture will first outline how ‘remoteness’ was conceived and constructed during the Soviet and post-Soviet periods in Russia. Using the ideas of the social geographer Boris Rodoman, it argues that centric structures of power, communications and state provision created scalar zones of non-development and isolation at borders between internal administrative regions. In post-Soviet times the structure continued, but according to Vladimir Kagansky it has been disturbed by recent ‘spontaneous transformations’ whereby state international borders are becoming areas of contact and enterprise, rather than isolation. The lecture will suggest to the contrary that, with the increasing centralisation of the Putin era, Kagansky’s theory has not been realised on the Russia-Mongolia-China border, and that international frontiers with reduced crossing points in fact deepen the residents’ situation of being ‘cut off’ or ‘at a dead end’. However, the indigenous people living in border zones, notably the Buryat, operate not only with these state-inspired geographies, but also with their own quite different spatial concepts. These are so much the converse to the Russian that they can be seen as a distinctive minoritized vision. The Buryat ideas and ritual practices reach across political boundaries. In effect they create a subtle challenge to the spatiality of the Russian state. It will be suggested that roads in this situation become particularly concentrated vectors of contradictory values.

June 13, 2013 - Farish Noor

Dr. Farish Noor (Senior Reseacher, Nanyang Technical University)

Pirate is what I'm not: The use of the term 'Pirate' from the age of colonialism to the current discourse on maritime security in Southeast Asia
Today the term 'pirate' has obvious negative connotations and is widely used in the security discourses of Southeast Asia. Yet it can be shown that this term has evolved over the past two centuries, where it was initially introduced as a means to draw an internal boundary between the order of colonial knowledge and power, and the real lives of the colonised natives. This presentation is part of a collaborative work between Dr Farish A Noor and Yan I-Lann, a Malaysian artist, which looks at the plural meanings of 'pirate' and 'piracy' today. It will argue that the use of the term 'pirate' was political in nature from the beginning, and was part of a wider effort of epistemically classify and arrest the meaning of the colonised native subject in a fluid region where movement and diasporas were a reality. By labeling the native Other as pirate, the colonisers were also drawing a distinction between themselves, and identifying themselves in terms of what they were and what they did not wish to be. The semantic and epistemic arrest of the term 'pirate' was thus a symptom of a broader arrest of the Southeast Asian archipelago as a whole.

April 23, 2013 - Mrinalini Sinha

Mrinalini Sinha (Professor of History, University of Michigan)

The Abolition of Indenture and the Time-Space of Global History
This talk offers a series of reflections on the challenges and limits of contemporary frame-works of global history through a detailed study of the movement for the abolition of indenture. The abolition of the indentured labor system, which had been put in place in the aftermath of Atlantic slavery to substitute emancipated African slaves with indentured Indians on colonial plantations overseas, provides a challenge for existing global historical frameworks that tend to privilege space over time. This talk makes the case for a return to the “temporal,” through an exploration of the concept of an “interregnum,” to understand the much-neglected movement for the abolition of indenture or what following the abolition of Atlantic slavery has been called the “second abolition.”

Nov 21, 2012 - Engseng Ho

Enseng Ho (Professor of Anthropology and History, Duke University)

Dubai and Singapore: Asian Diasporics, Global Logistics, Company Rule
Dubai and Singapore are emblematic of the contemporary global moment, embodying dizzying success, frenetic excess, spectacular crash. Are they global cities or port-states? Are they Asian nations or corporations descended from the English EIC and Dutch VOC? Their iconic status today as global cities is not simply a function of globalization, but can be understood in terms of dynamic currents that shape and reshape places in the Indian Ocean, the original Asian venue of an international economy. Dubai and Singapore are two tiny places that have been successful because they have understood those currents, and acted in accordance with changes in their dynamics. What are these dynamics – their constants over the long term, and their recent shifts?

This kick-off Global Asia Series lecture, together with the GLASS masterclass, provides a maritime perspective on Global Asia.


Last Modified: 31-10-2016