Keynote Speakers

Professor Saskia Sassen will deliver the opening keynote address.

Saskia Sassen, Columbia University

When the cold war ended, a new struggle began. The US became the focal point for a radical reshuffling of capitalism that spread to a good number of Western countries.  Before, a period centered in mass manufacturing, mass construction of housing, and mass consumption valued people as workers and consumers. The new phase of advanced capitalism does not quite value people at the scale and in modes that can generate a vast prosperous working and modest middle class –the heart of a healthy economy with strong distributive effects. The last two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people who have been “expelled” from urban and rural economies. Their numbers could become as large as those of the newly incorporated middle classes in countries such as India and China. By the expelled I seek to capture a broad range of micro-worlds. They include conditions as diverse as the growing numbers of the abjectly poor or the displaced in poor countries who are warehoused in formal and informal refugee camps; the rapidly growing numbers of minorities in rich countries who are warehoused in prisons; workers whose bodies are destroyed on the job or rendered useless at far too young an age; able-bodied surplus populations warehoused in ghettoes and slums; the impoverishment of the traditional middle classes in rich countries whose sons and daughters have been expelled form the middle class project of the three preceding generations.  In short, by expulsions I try to capture multiple specific and distinct micro-worlds. Have the complex political economies of advanced capitalism actually engendered brutalities that exceed the positives?  What is next? And how can we turn some of the negatives around –what type of change would it take. These are the questions explored in the lecture, which is based on the author’s forthcoming book Expulsions: When complexity engenders elementary brutalities.

Saskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Co-Chair of The Committee on Global Thought. Her research and writing focuses on globalization, immigration, global cities, new networked technologies, and changes within the liberal state that result from current transnational conditions. In her research she has focused on the unexpected and the counterintuitive as a way to cut through established “truths.” Her most recent publications include When Territory exits Existing Frameworks (Harvard University Press, upcoming), Cities in a World Economy (4th ed, Sage 2011), Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press 2008) and A Sociology of Globalization (W.W.Norton 2007), and The Global City (2001, 2nd ed). She recently edited Deciphering the Global (Routledge 2007), and Digital Formations: New Architectures for Global Order (Princeton University Press 2005). For UNESCO she has now completed a five-year project on sustainable human settlement with a network of researchers and activists in over 30 countries, now published as one of the volumes of the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (Oxford, UK: EOLSS Publishers). Her books have been translated into twenty-one languages. She has received a doctor honoris causa from each Delft University (Netherlands), DePaul University (USA), and Universite de Poitiers (France), among other honors, and serves on several editorial boards, as well as acting as an advisor to several international bodies. She is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Cities, and chaired the Information Technology and International Cooperation Committee of the Social Science Research Council (USA). She has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Newsweek International, among others, and contributes regularly to Open Democracy and Huffington Post.

Professor Prasenjit Duara will deliver the closing keynote address.

Prasenjit Duara, National University of Singapore

The recent wave of globalization has not only not reduced the power of nation-states, but it has also generated trans-national region formation as an emergent space between the global scale of wealth production, redistribution and environmental transformation and sovereign nations as institutional sites of management and remediation. The EU, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, APEC, and ASEAN (+3; +6) are responses to this gap. Yet the large region—imperial, trans-imperial and cross-border formations—have scarcely been absent in earlier periods. I will consider the different historical moments over the last millennium when various parts of Asia—particularly maritime Asia—became linked and interdependent, enabling vast circulations of goods, practices and ideas, including the world religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. What are the connections and differences between the earlier moments and the current period of region-formation centered particularly around ASEAN? How do the leaders and stakeholders in this process invoke the historical and geographical dimensions of this formation and how can we understand those dimensions? Undoubtedly, one of the most critical global problems today is climate change and the sustainable supply of public goods or commons, such as water, air quality and manageable epidemics. These are problems of geographical contiguity.  Can regions address these problems by enabling transcendence of national exclusiveness and creating the foundations of shared sovereignty in the world?

Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director of the Asia Research Institute and Humanities and Social Science Research at National University of Singapore. Professor Duara received his PhD from Harvard University, USA in History and East Asian Languages in 1983.  He has taught at Princeton University, George Mason University and Stanford University between 1981 and 1990.  From 1990 until 2008, he taught at the University of Chicago where he was Chair of the China Studies Committee (1994-1996) and subsequently, Chair of the History Department (2004-2007). An internationally reputed historian of China and Asia more broadly, Professor Duara has delivered over 50 keynote and distinguished lectures internationally since 1996. In 2008, he delivered the keynote address at the anniversary conference of Thirty Years of Reform and Development in the PRC in Peking University, organized by the Ministry of Finance, PRC, Asian Development Bank, & Peking University, and in 2010 he represented one of eight global Indian Thinkers in the series  From West Heavens to the Central Plain: India-China Summit on Social Thought held in Shanghai. His research interests include social and cultural history, problems of development, nationalism and imperialism, religion, historical thought and social theory. He also serves on the editorial boards of several international journals and on the advisory and review boards of scholarly institutions.  He has written four books and edited another. At NUS, Professor Duara seeks not only to enable research in the humanities, social sciences and allied fields, but also to co-ordinate the vast quantum of research in Asian studies spread over different institutions at the University. He is particularly interested in promoting inter-Asian and multi-disciplinary research through comparison, convergence, or connectivity and to develop Singapore as the hub of research in inter-Asian relationships.