CFP - Managing the Cosmopolitan City: Inter-Asian Strategies of Ethnic Administration, Past and Present

Valerie  Yeo's picture
Call for Papers
September 1, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Ethnic History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Social Sciences, Urban History / Studies


Managing the Cosmopolitan City: Inter-Asian Strategies of Ethnic Administration, Past and Present
14 - 15 January 2021
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

For centuries, travelers have celebrated the cosmopolitan energy of Asia’s cities. They have depicted urban centers across the continent—from Shanghai to Surat, from Samarkand to Singapore—as bustling centers of economic and cultural exchange. Historically, Asia’s cities were conglomerations of itinerant merchants, artisans, wayfarers, pilgrims, and slaves. Contemporary cities boast transnational business people, laborers, service workers, students, and refugees. Governing such cities has long been a challenge. Indigenous kingdoms, imperial regimes, and modern nation-states alike have struggled to manage the gaggle of cultures, languages, behavioral norms, livelihoods, and religious practices. In some cases, state officials have suppressed cross-community intimacies, mobilities, and collaborations. In others, they have tolerated and even promoted the autonomy of minority communities and the creation of new ethnic identities.

Asian cities have often adopted strategies of urban governance with reference to the successes and failures of other urban centers in Asia and beyond. Yet the transmission of ideas can take different paths: as information gathered by state officials, practices imported by diasporic communities, or ideas disseminated through scholarly networks or mass media. This conference invites scholars to push beyond the formal boundaries of individual cities, empires, and nations by interrogating this dispersal of people and ideas across urban Asia. Key questions include (but are not limited to):

  • How is knowledge related to the administration of ethnic communities transmitted from place to place within or beyond Asia?
  • How have diasporic communities contributed to the dispersal of different strategies of ethnic administration?
  • To what extent were modern ethnic policies introduced to Asia by Western imperialists, and to what extent did they borrow from indigenous Asian models?
  • How have state policies and practices been negotiated, resisted, claimed, or otherwise experienced by ethnic communities on the ground?

Through this conference, we hope to understand the development of ethnic administration in Asian cities through the interplay between the local and the transnational, between state actors and the diverse voices of society, and between the past and the present.

We anticipate a vibrant and productive scholarly exchange. In addition, the conference offers participants the opportunity to workshop article manuscripts in progress. The conference organizers are keen on collecting the revised versions of papers presented at this conference for publication as a special journal issue. To that end, we can only accept proposals for papers which have not been published previously and are not committed elsewhere.


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 1 September 2020. Please also include a statement confirming that your paper has not been published previously, it is not committed elsewhere, and that you are willing to revise your paper for potential inclusion in a special issue submission (in collaboration with the conference organizers and other participants). 

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms. Valerie Yeo at Successful applicants will be notified by the end of September. Panel presenters will be required to submit drafts of papers (4,000-7,000) words by 1 December 2020. These drafts will be circulated to fellow panelists and discussants in advance. Drafts need not be fully polished. Indeed, we expect that presenters will be open to feedback from fellow participants.

We earnestly hope to welcome all of our conference participants to Singapore early next year. However, given the global pandemic, the conference will accommodate both in-person and online participants as needed, and applicants need not commit to travelling to Singapore. If possible, the Asia Research Institute will provide overseas participants full or partial airfare as well as three nights of accommodation.


Dr Mathew Reeder | Postdoctoral Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Dr Yang Yang | Postdoctoral Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Dr Clay Keller Eaton | Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Humanities, Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Contact Info: 

Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore

Contact Email: