Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

Scale and the Genealogical Imagination in Transregional Asia

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Gulmohar, First Floor

Genealogies have supported political, social, and religious authority in colonial and postcolonial Asia; however, the features of genealogical forms and practices that have constituted such authority are many and varied. This panel aims to explore these multifarious features under the rubric of the “genealogical imagination” (Shryock 1997), examining various modes and manifestations of genealogical authority across regions, time periods, and traditions.


We aim to historicize both the grounds of authority on which diverse forms and modes of genealogy rest, and the regimes of authentication within which they make sense or are challengeable. We move away from two common assumptions, namely, that the primary mode of genealogical authority is the establishment of unbroken links to ancestors and that the construction of genealogies simply justifies contemporary political arrangements. Accordingly, we propose an approach that is attentive to how genealogies signify through multiple, overlapping and even contradictory modes. We emphasize lateral connections, ambiguous linkages, breaks and interruptions in chains, and forms of kinship not usually recognized in standard conceptions of genealogical relatedness. We are interested in how the genealogical imagination makes and calibrates scale differently across Asia.


Drawn from different transregional Asian zones of connection, our five papers will trace the logics, imaginations, and networks that are internal to the genealogies we consider. This requires us to set aside conventional categories and analytics – such as local versus cosmopolitan, or notions of modular transmission – in order to discover the configurations of space, time, and connection that particular instances and kinds of genealogies make possible. 

Guo-Quan Seng

National University of Singapore, Singapore

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Daniel Birchok

University of Michigan, Flint, United States

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Guo-Quan Seng

National University of Singapore, Singapore

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Elsa Clavé

Goethe University, Germany

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Kaja McGowan

Cornell University, United States

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