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24.10.2020 10:53 Alter: 36 days

Understanding Land

Call for Papers

Theme: Understanding Land
Subtitle: Configuring Spaces, Making Identities
Type: SNU Graduate Student Conference 2021
Institution: Department of History, Shiv Nadar University
Location: Online
Date: 29.–31.1.2021
Deadline: 31.10.2020

Land has been an important and perhaps an overarching category for us
to understand how we perceive and make sense of the world. While on
one hand it has often been seen as tabula rasa (a formless interval)
in colonial thinking, a simple interrogation would reveal that land
is often coterminous with a set of material and cultural practices
that give it a distinct sense of identity and meaning over
generations and for different societies. As both part and product of
property relations, habitations and ecology, it therefore occupies an
important place in thinking about arts, philosophy and history.

Seen from this perspective, some of the contemporary issues of the
world today whether it be of environment, urban development or of
culture and belongingness behove us to think of land in a more
emphatic and rigorous manner. Scholars today thus see land as
produced with an accretion of ideas, sets of cultural practices and
entanglements of meanings. Inspired by classical thinkers and yet not
merely limited to speculations of mind, land could be thus understood
at three different levels: a) of location (as it remains fixed on a
particular geographical coordinate, its landscape), b) of
socio-economic relations through which it is formed and given shape,
and c) the phenomenological aspects of ‘belongingness’. While
scholars contest if they should put more emphasis on one aspect or
another, as we interact, engage or even think about land, we have to
concede that these different levels not only inform each other but
are imbricated into one another.

With this consensus, land can be understood as a social space that is
produced, represented and lived at the same time. This
conglomeration, however, very often takes place in/with highly
asymmetrical relations of power as dictated by colonialism,
capitalism, gender and caste relations. In this connection, while on
one hand it might indicate a conceptualization of power on the
material and cultural terrains in terms of sovereignty,
governmentality and politics; on the other hand, it can be seen as
forming a kind of micro-politics that emphasizes differences among
state functionaries, local organisations and different customary
practices associated with land.

The year 2020 has brought to the fore a deep ecological/life crisis.
In addition to exposing the existing inequities of the world, it has
forced us to acknowledge and interrogate our relations with both
space and time. The image of the migrant workers defying all odds to
go back to their respective states during the pandemic not only has
brought on surface the anxieties about 'homeland', but has also laid
bare the precarious urban machination of big cities. Our
anthropocentric worldviews and policies are neither well directed,
nor do they seem efficient enough in the face of this crisis. Against
this difficulty and multifarious possibilities in the discourse, can
we then move away from seeing land as a mere ideational construct and
understand how it is spatially configured and historically

In order to engage with these issues, the conference seeks to invite
early career research scholars to use land as a dynamic act of
placemaking and creating identities.  We welcome contributions on the
sub-themes including but not limited to:

- Land and Belonging
- Political Ecology of Land
- Law, Land and Property
- Ruination and Abandonment of Land
- Conflict and Violence over Land
- Land and Migration
- Land and Urban Formations


We invite MPhil and PhD scholars to send their abstracts (250-350
words), along with any other queries, to by 31st October, 2020. Please
also send a short bio-note within 150 words.

Selected participants will be informed over email by 5th November,

The selected papers (3500-5000 words) will have to be submitted by
31st December, 2020.

The conference will be held online in January, 2021. The intended
dates for the conference at present are 29th to 31st January, 2021.
These are tentative dates. We will send out the final dates once we
announce our participants and take their convenience into


SNU Graduate Student Conference 2021
Department of History
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Shiv Nadar University