Society and Identity
The roundtable explores the situation and challenges of Asia-centered research in Europe, themes and formats of engaging beyond regional and disciplinary boundaries. By introducing an emerging network of scholars from the Humanities and Social Sciences in Germany the roundtable seeks to discuss diverse formats that allow to establish sustained linkages between scholars from Europe and Asia (and beyond) with a particular interest in dynamics, connectivities and experiences across and beyond Asia. While there are long-standing traditions of research in different Asian countries and avenues for bilateral scholarly exchange, till date very few studies and research networks address the notion of ‘Asia’ or study the entanglements and dynamics that shape Asian societies or institutions beyond national boundaries. The initiative “Shaping Asia” resonates to the ways ‘Asia’ as a transcultural, not only geo-physical space, is created and re-created today and across historical periods. It thus also reflects debates within critical area studies and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Gayatri Spivak’s statement, “Asia is not a place, yet the name is laden with history and cultural politics” aptly expresses an omnipresent ambivalence between narratives of Asia’s importance as category and imaginary, on one hand, as well as the manifold divisions and futurities, on the other. Until circa 2000, only few attempts existed to actively pursue trans-regional research within Asia: ‘L’Asie n’existe pas’ (‘Asia does not exist’) dominated as a Leitmotif highlighting Asian self-understandings driven especially by practices of distinction based on cultural, ethnic or political as well as regional, national, and local difference - that was mirrored in scholarly work in Asia and beyond.
In conversation with members of other network initiatives (yet by no means claiming to represent and unfortunately not able to include them all), the round table will introduce Shaping Asia’s key concepts of connectivities, comparisons, collaborations that provide a methodological frame for the network. Connectivities are dynamic relations prompting us to study transactions, transgressions, mediators operative on different scales - and equally consider ruptures, antagonisms and closures leading to disconnectivities. Comparisons instigate change and asymmetries – be they tacit or overt - and challenges empirical methods as well as theoretical concepts when studied from a transregional approach. Convinced that multi-scalarity, multi-perspectivity and relationality are key pillars of research in the humanities, the network is based on the premise that knowledge production requires co-production and collaboration.