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2018 Sri Lanka Graduate Student Conference Call For Papers


Borders: Real and Imagined

2018 Sri Lanka Graduate Student Conference

November 9-10, Cornell University


The 2018 Sri Lanka Graduate Conference will be held on November 9-10 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The conference is hosted by Cornell’s South Asia Program, and co-sponsored by the American Institute for Sri Lanka Studies. As in years prior, this workshop will bring together graduate students in both the final writing-up stage and pre-research/planning stages from a variety of disciplines and institutions. The graduate conference aims to enhance intellectual exchange on Sri Lanka, emphasize the production of empirical and non-sectarian knowledge, focus attention on recent potential transformation of key concepts, build a new cohort of researchers (and research) across disciplines and institutions, and strengthen relationships between American graduate students and local intellectual circles in Sri Lanka. We invite students from all disciplines to participate.

The objective of this conference is to map the ways in which borders manifest as physical and conceptual frameworks for dictating social, cultural, and economic divisions. Often we hear of the borders that divide physical spaces, such as North and South, or of the real and imagined borders that seek to define the nation-state. Conceptually, borders provide a framework for discussing notions such as ethnicity, race, class, caste, and gender. But in both their physical and conceptual iterations, the act of delineating borders often inhibits fluidity within and outside of these divisions. We invite papers that address these complexities. Questions might include: how do borders dictate questions of belonging? How do they dictate distinctions between the local vs. the global, homeland and diaspora, colonial and post-colonial? We also encourage papers that reflect on how the discussion of borders in the field of Sri Lanka Studies intersects with conversations outside the field. This question is particularly relevant to transnational studies and diaspora studies, where the movement across borders takes on additional significance through a comparative lens. In this point, we are particularly conscious of the location of the Sri Lanka Graduate Student Conference in the US, now in its ninth year, where the discussion of borders is in dialogue with indigenous studies, decolonial theory, and the current political crises at the US border and around the world. We seek to draw from this context as an opportunity for self-reflection on our positions as researchers, and how borders—real or imagined, physical or conceptual—manifest in our own work. Given that participants in the conference come from different identities, border-crossings, disciplines, and research backgrounds, we hope to think through these ideas collectively, and from varying positionalities, to trace potential lines of influence, crossover, and affiliation.

The conference takes place over two days. On Friday November 9, a small, closed pre-dissertation development workshop will be held for four to six students who are working on their research proposals, with several faculty mentors from Cornell and elsewhere. On Saturday November 10, the conference will consist of several panels of paper presentations from advanced graduate students, with Cornell faculty discussants, which will be open to the public.

We would like to invite three categories of potential participants to submit proposals to by Monday September 17.

  1. Advanced graduate students may submit individual paper proposals for Saturday’s panels. Proposals should include a title and 300-word abstract, as well as a brief CV indicating institutional affiliation, degrees earned, current address, and any notable publications and/or presentations.
  2. Pre-research students in Masters or PhD programs may apply for the Friday pre-dissertation development workshop. These proposals should include a 300-500 word description of your research interests and plan. Please also include a one-page CV indicating institutional affiliation, degrees earned, current address, and any other relevant information.
  3. Graduate students at any stage of their studies, who wish to participate in the conference without presenting may send brief expressions of their interest, noting how this conference would be beneficial to your graduate studies. Please also include a one-page CV indicating institutional affiliation, degrees earned, current address, and any other relevant information.

We have limited funding for travel and accommodations for participants of all three varieties. Please let us know if you are unable to access funding from your department or university. 

Please send proposals as PDF or Word attachments, with “Sri Lanka Graduate Student Conference” in the subject line, to the South Asia Program at by Monday September 17. Inquiries prior to that date are most welcome. Please indicate the category of your proposal in your email.