‘Systems in flux: constitution-making, patronage and post-war politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka’ by Jonathan Goodhand and Oliver Walton

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Jonathan Goodhand is Professor in Conflict and Development Studies in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS University of London where he teaches courses on Development Practice and War to Peace Transitions.

Oliver Walton is a Lecturer in International Development  in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath. He specialises in NGO politics, conflict and peacebuilding. 

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Recent demonstrations in Jaffna by the Tamil People’s Council

Sri Lanka and Nepal may have turned their backs on protracted and bloody conflicts, but the fault lines that fuelled these wars have not gone away.  Instead they continually resurface and shape contentious politics in the two countries.  The crucial challenge facing political elites now is that of constitutional reform. What is the basis of power sharing?  To what extent should power and finance be decentralised? Where should new administrative boundaries be drawn?  How can minority rights be protected?  And how can majority community buy in be assured?

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‘Jaffna University, Sri Lanka – when entitlement is rejected’ by Annemari de Silva

Annemari de Silva is Chevening Scholar to SOAS reading for an MA South Asian Area Studies, major in the Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia.

On the 16th of July, a clash between students at the University of Jaffna erupted over the inclusion of Sinhalese cultural spectacles in the welcome event. Established in 1974, Jaffna University is located at the heart of the Tamil majority North of Sri Lanka. Although originally open to all students, the University ceased to admit Sinhalese students from 1983 once ethnic clashes between Sinhalese and Tamils had erupted to the scale of national conflict. It began to admit Sinhalese students again after a reintegration program begun in 2011, two years after the end of the war.

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‘The pathologies of trust and distrust in Pakistan’ by Amina Yaqin

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Amjad Sabri, assassinated in Karachi on 22 June 2016 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Amina Yaqin is Senior Lecturer in Urdu and Postcolonial Studies in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS.

The recent assassination of the renowned qawwali singer Amjad Fareed Sabri in the name of piety in Pakistan has revived the question of the permissibility of music in Pakistani culture. Sabri was shot on June 22nd 2016 by attackers on a motorcycle while he was driving his car in Liaquatabad, Karachi and he succumbed to his injuries in Abbasi Shaheed hospital. Acknowledged as a ‘targeted killing and an act of terrorism’ by Inspector General Mushtaq Mehar this premeditated crime in the sacred month of Ramadan of a devotional singer from a renowned gharana adds to the ongoing battle over national culture in Pakistan that is being played out between ‘wahabi’ and ‘Sufi’ Islam. It puts qawwali centre stage as a musical form to be distrusted in an Islamic nation and identifies those who associate with it as lacking in piety although ironically that is the original purpose of the music.

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‘Africa Day’ by Simona Vittorini

Simona Vittorini is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies where she lectures undergraduate and postgraduate courses on the comparative politics of Asia and Africa.

A diplomatic crisis was narrowly averted last week in Delhi when the African Heads of Missions finally agreed to participate in the Africa Day celebrations organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in New Delhi.

A few days earlier, in a press release the Eritrean Ambassador Alem Tsehage Woldermariam (Dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission in Delhi) communicated the decision of the African diplomatic community not to take part in this year’s Africa Day’s celebrations.

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A Survey of Delhi Garment Workers Suggests Poverty Comes in Many Sizes

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Homeworkers and factory workers in the garment industry, Delhi, India.

Alessandra Mezzadri is lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS, University of  London. Her research interests focus on globalisation and processes of labour informalisation; materialist and feminist approaches to global commodity chains and global industrial systems; labour regimes, labour standards and CSR; gender and globalisation; and the political economy of India.

Three years after Rana Plaza, garment workers worldwide still endure poor working conditions. The industry has witnessed several ‘minor’ disasters and sweatshop scandals since then. In Cambodia, a garment factory outside Phnom Pehn collapsed and fell into a pond a month after Rana Plaza. Images of garment workers swimming to safety amidst floating pieces of clothing appeared in major newspapers (O’Keeffe K. and Narin, 2013). In 2014, Cambodian garment workers were subjected to a wave of state-based violence (Sotheary, 2014). The industry made news yet again in February this year, when the sports’ gear giant Rip Curl was named and shamed for producing in North Korea, where many factory workers endure ‘slave-like’ conditions, according to Labour Behind the Label. The label on the clothing read ‘Made in China’. Rip Curl declared they had no idea their goods were being made in North Korea, blaming unauthorised, hidden subcontracting by suppliers.

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‘The Relevance of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar – Today and Tomorrow’ by Professor David Mosse

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David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS. His research combines interests in the anthropology of development and activism, environmental history and natural resources management, in the anthropology of Christianity, South Asian society and popular religion.

Professor David Mosse was invited to give a number of speeches for the celebration of the 125th  birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar in Nagpur on 13th—15th April 2016. Excerpts of the text of the presentations follow:

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Borderlands, Brokers and War to Peace Transitions in Nepal and Sri Lanka

The September 2015 blockade at Nepal’s southern border led to widespread fuel shortages and a spike in gas and petrol prices across the country.

Jonathan Goodhand is a Professor Conflict and Development Studies at the SOAS Department of Development Studies.   His research focuses on the political economy of conflict, war to peace transitions and increasingly on the role of borderlands, with a particular focus on South and Central Asia.

Oliver Walton is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences. His research focuses on NGOs, civil society and peacebuilding, third party mediation and conflict prevention.

Last September, violent protests in the Tarai region of Nepal triggered the closure of its southern border with India, leading to a spike in fuel prices and widespread damage to the economy. The blockade from Madhesi groups was a response to concerns that the new federal boundaries agreed in Nepal’s long-awaited constitution reinforced existing political marginalisation. The campaign was widely believed to be complicitly backed by India so as to apply pressure on Nepal’s ruling coalition because of unease at the new constitution. The renewed violence in the Tarai marks a worrying new chapter in a country that is still recovering from a long insurgency from Maoist guerrillas, which was finally ended by a peace agreement in 2006.

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SSAI News: Opening of the Everlasting Flame Exhibition at the National Museum, Delhi

A SOAS Exhibition organized in collaboration with the British Library, National Museum of Iran and UNESCO Parzor Foundation, Delhi

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The Everlasting Flame Exhibition, which is currently ongoing at the National Museum in New Delhi, was inaugurated on 19 March 2016. The exhibition was originally produced by SOAS, University of London, in 2013. In 2016, to mark SOAS’ centenary year celebrations, the exhibition has been taken to Delhi. Dr. Najma Heptulla, Hon’ble Minister for Minority Affairs released the publication, The Zoroastrian Flame, at the inauguration. SOAS Director, Baroness Valerie Amos, and SOAS South Asia Institute Director, Professor Michael Hutt were also present at the event, along with Baroness Tessa Blackstone, the Chair of the British Library Board, Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, and a number of colleagues from both SOAS and the British Library. Continue reading

Gurvinder Singh Film Screenings at SSAI by Navtej Purewal

On February 4 and 5, 2016, SOAS South Asia Institute was thrilled to host director Gurvinder Singh and screen two of his films: Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan (Alms for the Blind Horse) and Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction). In this blog post, Navtej Purewal transcribes some of the post-film discussion between Gurvinder and Derek Malcolm, former Chief Film Critic of the Guardian and director of the London Film Festival, after the screening of Chauthi Koot which has recently won the Grand Prix at Belgrade Auteur Film Festival, the Best Asian Film at the Singapore International Film Festival and the Best Indian Film at the Mumbai Film Festival. Continue reading

‘Future of the Rural World?’ by Edward Simpson

The conference “The Future of the Rural World? Africa and Asia” was hosted by SOAS, University of London during October 2015. The event marked the end of a major project funded by the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on “restudying” village India. It also coincided with the launch of an exhibition and film installations at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, which emerged from the same project. At the conference, Peter Ho, Katy Gardner, and Henrietta Moore spoke provocatively on rural futures in China, Bangladesh, and East Africa.

Most of world’s scholarly and media attention is on megacities and the story of rapid urbanization they are held to represent. Slums have become photogenic and dramatic devices. However, the greater part of the world’s population continues to live in rural areas. This will continue to be the case for some time to come. The consequential and untold story, however, is the radical transformation of the countryside, as things formerly thought of as villages become something else. These places mark the emergence of a new form of settlements that are neither cities nor villages in the conventional uses of such terms. The language of social science is ill equipped for these new realities. Continue reading