India Update 2018 – Voices of difference: minority positions in a majoritarian world

Dates & times

Thu 15 November — Fri 16 November 2018, 9am–5pm


Lecture Theatre 1, Hedley Bull Building 130, ANU

Image: Gigi Scaria, Panic City, 2004 (still from video installation) cropped


The South Asia Research Institute at ANU announces its biennial conference that brings together scholars, policymakers and cultural practitioners to take stock of recent developments.

As India moves towards national elections, the India Update assesses key dynamics that are shaping the country and its neighbours. One question that has emerged with renewed force in India and elsewhere is the position of minority and subaltern groups. In increasingly populist global climates, what happens to the political status, cultural identities, and legal rights of such constituents in a democracy? What can we learn from India, and South Asia more broadly, about the ongoing negotiation and contention between majoritarian and minority positions?

The Update will further examine India today in light of pressing issues surrounding rapid urbanisation, gender relations, climate change, crises in public goods, and international relations. Showcasing new research in these fields, the Update will take stock of India in the world today. The keynote address for the 2018 India Update will be delivered by Professor G.N. Devy, titled ‘Memory, Language and Aphasia: The Future of Human Speech’.


Keynote speaker: Professor G.N. Devy


Speakers’ bios and abstracts. 

Day 1 Thursday 15 November

Venue: Hedley Bull Lecture Theatre 1

9-9.10am Acknowledgement of Country and welcome to the Update

  • Dr Shameem Black and Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, ANU

9.10-9.30am Welcome remarks

  • H.E. Dr A.M. Gondane, High Commissioner, High Commission of India

9.30-10.45am Keynote address

Professor G.N. Devy: People’s linguistic survey of India
‘Memory, language and aphasia: the future of human speech’

  • Chair: Professor Nick Evans, ANU

10.45-11.15am Morning tea

11.15am-12.45pm Crises in public goods

  • Chair: Dr Paul Kenny, ANU
  • Associate Professor Assa Doron, ANU – Superbugs and sanitation in India
  • Professor Robin Jeffrey, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore – Open defecation and Swachh Bharat – Where ‘Clean India’ is and why it’s hard
  • Shaheen Ahmed, Monash University- ‘Fetishising’ the clean body: the presences and absences in representations of the female consumer in Indian advertisements, 1930 -1980

12.45-1.45pm Lunch

1.45-3.15pm ‘Others’ in the post-colony: religious minorities in the Indian subcontinent

  • Chair: Professor Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, ANU
  • Dr Joyce Das, ANU – Constructing ‘minorityness’: Christians in post-colonial Bangladesh
  • Sana Ashraf, ANU – Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan: familiar others and the enemy within
  • Dr Alex Davis, La Trobe University – The ‘Modi Doctrine’?: foreign policy performance and domestic identity building
  • Felix Pal, ANU – Making Good Muslims in the Hindu right: preparing for hindu rashtra

3.15-3.45pm Afternoon tea

3.45-5.15pm Sex, gender and the body

  • Chair: Dr Babita Bhatt ,  ANU
  • Professor Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota – Gender, movement, and theatre: after playing with fire
  • Dr Amanda Gilbertson, The University of Melbourne- From health to pleasure: the politics of sexuality education in India
  • Dr Annie McCarthy, University of Canberra, and Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, ANU – Bleeding in public? Reframing narratives of managing menstruation
  • Dr Ahonaa Roy, Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay). – Enduring the carnage: the theory and rhetoric of the benign palimpsest of gender transgression

5.15-5.45pm SARI book celebration: author’s roundtable

  • Chair: Dr Nicholas Farrelly, Associate Dean (Development and Impact), ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Participants: Associate Professor Assa Doron, ANU;  Dr Amanda Gilbertson, The University of Melbourne; Professor Robin Jeffrey, Australia India Institute; Dr Andy Kennedy, ANU; Dr Paul Kenny, ANU; Professor Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, ANU; Professor Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota; and McComas Taylor, ANU.

5.45-6.45pm Reception (Hedley Bull Foyer)

7pm India Update dinner (by invitation)


Day 2 Friday 16 November

Venue: Hedley Bull Lecture Theatre 1

10-11am Chai and chats: an undergraduate conversation

This session offers a chance for ANU undergraduates to have an informal conversation with researchers in South Asian studies about the complexities of navigating careers and personal lives.

  • Note: This session will be held in Hedley Bull 3
  • Participants: Dr Aditya Balasubramanian, ANU; Dr Alicia Mollaun, DFAT; Dr Meera Ashar, ANU; and Dr Shameem Black, ANU

11-11.30am Film screening followed by Q&A with Professor Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt – ‘Precarious labour in stone quarrying in India’

The fieldwork for the film was funded by an ARC Discovery Project ‘Beyond the Resource Curse’.

11.30am-12.30pm Plenary lecture – Dr Sushil Aaron: Turbulence: will India’s domestic politics shape its career prospects?

  • Chair: Dr Meera Ashar, ANU

12.30-1.30pm Lunch

1.30-3pm The rise of India in a changing world

  • Chair: Dr Cecilia Jacob, ANU
  • Dr Andy Kennedy, ANU – India’s rise in technology: powerhouse or pretender?
  • Dr Alicia Mollaun DFAT – Australia and India: strengthening ties
  • Dr David Brewster, ANU – Between giants: Sino-Indian competition – its consequences for the region

3-3.30pm Afternoon tea

3.30-5pm Urban incoherence: promises and contestations

  • Chair: Dr Shameem Black, ANU
  • Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, ANU – City, nation and world in the work of Gulammohammed Sheikh
  • Gigi Scaria, independent artist – Imagined spaces, constructed realities
  • Associate Professor Rupali Gupte, School of Environment and Architecture – Spatial interrogations of contemporary Indian urbanity

5-5.15pm Concluding reflections


Convenors: Dr Shameem Black and Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, South Asia Research Institute (ANU)


Updated:  19 November 2018/ Responsible Officer:  SARI director/ Page Contact:  SARI director