CFP AAS 2022: "Something in the Air": Between the Mundane and the Catastrophic in Asian Atmosphere

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Panel proposal for the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference

March 24-27, 2022, Honolulu, Hawai'i

Organizers: Bonnie Tilland (Yonsei University) and Seo Young Park (Scripps College)

"Something in the Air": Between the Mundane and the Catastrophic in Asian Atmosphere

Air quality has emerged as a significant issue in the everyday lives of people in urban and rural Asia in recent decades.  The widespread processes of deforestation, fossil fuel-fired power plants, increasing traffic density, and uneven industrial development have intensified the air issues across the region; and manifest in complex ways due to local issues of seasonal sandstorms, indoor air control crises, household coal burning, and urban-rural divides. While the multiple layers of thick haze, smog, and yellow sand have become a "new normal" in the landscape in Asian cities, unpredictable and severe "spikes" in microparticles and volatile organic compounds bring a sense of urgency to the everyday lives of the region.  The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a deeper crisis of breathing, ultimately transforming the way we conceive of physical and social spaces. The visible and invisible "things" in the air blur the line between the mundane and the catastrophic. 


This panel will explore how atmospheric uncertainties and anxieties impact people's lived experiences as well as condition their understanding of the world around them. In many countries, the substance in the air is measured and updated on an hourly basis through weather forecasts and mobile apps, creating an overflow of real-time information. The numbers and density of the bodies in a given space became an ultimate source of control and fear. The perceived exposure to particles, viruses, and chemical substances is not merely a result of environmental and medical causes, but also generative of new forms of vulnerability, precarity, and sociality. 


We welcome papers that broadly ask: 


  • How do sensory experiences entangle with the fear over and desire to control the ambiguous toxicity in indoor and outdoor air?  

  • In what ways do the substances in the air become legible by state policy, religious rituals, and scientific institutions? 

  • How do the ideas about the movement of air rework existing urban/rural divides and reshape the imaginary cartography of the region? 

  • How does "bad air" mark and blur the distinction of interior and exterior of bodies, built environments, communities, markets, and national territories?

  • How has the pandemic impacted the existing breathing crisis and brought out new tensions?  


Please submit your abstract (max 250 words), paper title, and presenter information (see below for requirements) to Bonnie Tilland ( by August 1st (or as soon as possible thereafter--please let us know if you're planning something but need more time).


Please also indicate if you are intending to attend the conference in person or only online (or if you are unsure).

Presenter information should include:

1. Full Name
2. Email address
3. Affiliation
4. Rank (student, professor, assistant professor, etc.)
5. Gender (female, male, non-binary)

Categories: Announcement, CFP