BUILDING SOVEREIGNTY, PREVENTING HEGEMONY:
The Challenges for Emerging Forces in the Globalised World
International and Multidisciplinary Conference in the framework of a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference
October 26-31, 2015
Terms of Reference
In 1835, a British colonial officer, Lord Macaulay, addressed the British Parliament as follows:
"I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation."
A little over a century later on in 1974, Henry Kissinger, an American diplomat, speaking on the subject of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, while addressing a group of Washington D.C. businessmen, said the following:
"The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, to all this neuralgic territory of great strategic importance for us, for the politics of the USA." (Ref: http://historum.com/asian-history/26268-lord-macaulay-s-address-british-parliament-2-february-1835-a.html (accessed: Feb 11, 2015)
It is quite clear from these two viewpoints, that culture (which we interpret here as a body of knowledge based on the collective experiences of a people over time - including their ideas, belief systems, history, language, music, literature, customs - in regards to how they interpret their socio-political and socio-economic environment and behave with respect to it) is an important target for people who intend to impose any hegemonic influences on another group of people.
It is therefore logical that if any group of people seeks to BUILD SOVEREIGNTY AND PREVENT HEGEMONY, an apt theme for our conference, culture has to be an important tool, a defence mechanism, for not to say weapon, for achieving this goal.
Culture has always featured, along with four other equally important topics (Ecology, Economy, Politics, and Religion) as a major component of several commemorative Bandung Conferences. So how do we hope to approach the question of the contribution of culture to the conference theme in October 2015? In answer to this question, cognizant of the major achievements of previous seminars in the area of culture, this year's call for papers will seek to be innovative and additive rather than repetitive and duplicative in approach. While building on the previous themes of "Cultural nationalism, cultural diversity and globalization in Africa and Asia, this year's focus will be on the theme of "Comparative African and Asian perspectives of culture as a resource for building sovereignty and preventing hegemony". As an illustration of the comparative approach to African and Asian cultural analysis, within the area of creative cultural industries in Africa and Asia, whereas there are numerous studies and articles about Nollywood in Africa and Bollywood in Asia, it is surprising that there are very few studies, if any at all, on the comparative critical studies of Nollywood and Bollywood as major creative industries that can enable Africa and Asia to promote the consumption of locally made cultural products, thus minimizing the hegemonic imposition of foreign cultural products on the societies of Africa and Asia. A paper on either Nollywood or Bollywood may, of course, be entertained but one on a comparative perspective on Nollywood or Bollywood will stand a better chance of being accepted, ceteris paribus.
Another aspect of this comparative approach to culture is to focus on the relationship between culture and history and raise the question of how African and Asian cultures have undergone change vis-à-vis historical events.
Furthermore, rather than charting only a celebratory approach to culture as a tool at the disposal of African and Asian societies to tackle external hegemony, but also internal hegemony which may lead to some majority ethno-cultural groups dominating some minority groups within the same country, we also need to take stock of what ways in which certain aspects of culture might indeed be inimical to building sovereignty and preventing hegemony. What might be needed to liberate African and Asian societies from the circle of internal colonization? In the multilingual and multicultural societies that African and Asian countries are, how might we reform ethnic and national cultures to be better tools for developing more sovereign and harmonious polities?
Panels or individual papers are invited that address any of the following aspects of culture, which also reflect many interests of members of the Working Group on Culture, from comparative African and Asian perspectives:
i. Culture as a tool for socio-political emancipation and socio-economic development
ii. The role of culture in building national, ethnic, and individual identities
iii. Cultural diversity in a global village
iv. Indigenous language documentation and revitalization
v. Cultural heritage preservation in multilingual and multicultural societies
vi. Migrant and diaspora communities as cross-cultural bridge builders
vii. Creative cultural industries
viii. Soft power and cultural diplomacy in emerging markets and economies
ix. How cultural change responds to the challenge of external hegemony
x. History as a field of study and methodology in rethinking the development of Africa – Asia solidary for cross-cultural exchange
In proposing panels and papers for this segment of the conference, scholars are required to address the following questions, which are, of course, not exhaustive:
I. Historical perspectives: how have African and Asian cultures evolved in the past 60 years? What has been the role of social movements in creating cultural dynamism throughout this period of history?
II. Significance: How prominent has culture often featured in the national and regional development policies in Africa and Asia? What is the role of the autonomous individual in strengthening group identities in these African and Asian societies?
III. Interdisciplinary aspects: what roles does culture play in ecological, economic, political, and religious issues in African and Asian societies, and,
IV. Looking ahead: How can culture better serve as a resource for building sovereignty and preventing hegemony in the next 60 years?
Panel and abstract specifications will be finally agreed on after we discuss these aspects with the other working groups on Ecology, Economy, Politics and Religion. But in addition to those, the following will apply to papers submitted for the seminar on Culture:
Mandatory African and Asian language component: While for pragmatic reasons the conference language is English and most papers are written in this language, for papers submitted to the seminar on Culture, as a respect to the languages and cultures of Africa and Asia, all papers in English or other languages must contain a summary in the form of an abstract of up to 600 words in an African or Asian language.
Prof. Dr. Adams Bodomo
Professor of African Studies (Chair of Languages and Literatures)
Director, Global African Diaspora Studies (GADS) Research Unit, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, Europe
Members of the Working Group on Culture
Prof. Dr. Heidi K. Gloria, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Philippines
Ms Lucia Ratih Kusumadewi, Department of Sociology, University of Indonesia
Ms Brigitta Isabella, KUNCI Cultural Studies Center, Yogyakarta
Prof. Geoffrey Nwaka, Professor of History, Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria