[URBANTH-L]Re: CFP for South Asia Conference in Madison, 2009

Nusrat S Chowdhury nusrat at uchicago.edu
Sun Mar 1 18:42:02 EST 2009

Inviting panelists for the Madison South Asia Conference 2009:
Spectacles of Transparency 


This panel aims to situate the global demands, debates and
dramas over ‘transparency’ in the context of South Asia.
Transparency as an ideal, a strategic objective and a mode 
of legitimization for states and non-state actors alike has
become synonymous with effective governance. We are curious to
see how modes of being transparent, in the form of electoral
democracies, e-governance, technocracies, journalistic
exposés, truth commissions and war crime tribunals, to name a
few, are inflected by cultural and historical exigencies that
are salient in if not unique to contemporary South Asia. To do
so, we ask how institutions and actors claim transparency in
the face of increased demand from the international political
arena as well as an overall celebration of what is more
popularly known as an NGO model of accountability. At the same
time we are deeply invested in tackling the question of power
that forms the basis of exactly what is to be made transparent
in these varied instances. Considering transparency claims as
ideological formations, the individual papers on the panel
will aim to show how power remains as opaque despite – or
perhaps because of – the various strategies of making it
visible, and thus, more accountable. Focusing on institutions
who claim to strive for transparency and actors who either
demand or are suspicious of such claims, this panel explores
what we call the ‘spectacles of transparency’ that have become
emblematic of South Asian political modernities today. In so
doing, we ask the following: 

How is transparency related to power and what is meant when
the operation of power is described as transparent? How is
rationality asserted as the operational logic of transparency?
How could self-conscious transparency initiatives be situated
within a larger historical, albeit self reflexive, moment that
is South Asian modernity? What are the kinds of mediations
that take place in consolidating a discourse of transparency
that is framed as more ‘immediate’ and thus less corrupt? How
could one ethnographically explore these mediating strategies?
What and how does transparency, despite its claims to the
contrary, conceal as much as it reveals? How is this dialectic
of revelation and concealment instructive of the way politics
happens in South Asia today? 

For abstract submissions, please contact Nusrat Chowdhury
(nusrat at uchicago.edu) or Mona Mehta (mgmehta at uchicago.edu).

Nusrat S Chowdhury
PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
The University of Chicago

Student Coordinator, South Asia Seminar & Theory and Practice in South Asia (TAPSA), 2008-2009

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