Decommodifying knowledge: Recuperating the interdisciplinarity of area studies

September 22, 2016 | 15:00 h - 16:30 h

Decommodifying knowledge:
Recuperating the interdisciplinarity of area studies by Prof. Shelley Feldman (Cornell University)

Keynote Lecture at the 5th International
Crossroads Asia Conference: Area Studies’ Futures

Crossroads Asia Lecture Series

Mapping, like censuses and identity cards, are political projects that mark belonging and regulationas well as shape knowledge production.

These practices highlight the commodification of knowledgethat is instantiated through policies that colonize world regions and connect the academy tothe servicing of global capital. It is therefore hardly surprising that how we generally organizethe academy reproduces disciplinary divisions and shapes the development of professional andtechnical expertise. Area studies (AS) can be viewed as a challenge to this effort in one criticaldetail: it offers a multidisciplinary and substantive understanding of particular places and worldregions.

Globalization and the increasing density of connections across world regions has alreadycontributed to interrupting traditional AS approaches given the complex mobilities of capitaland labor that now constitute kin and social networks, and as studies of the Atlantic and Indianoceans now suggest. Counter-intuitively, then, it can be argued that area studies – the concern tounderstand not an aspect of a place or community but the complex social and interstitial relationsthat comprise everyday life, its rituals, practices, rules, and conventions – can be re-appropriatedprecisely because it can be engaged as a strategic intervention to decommodify knowledge andchallenge epistemic hegemonies.

In this paper I draw on feminist, postcolonial, and queer theoryand border studies to expose the potential of a project of decommodification able to challengedeployments of area studies as rhetoric, frame, and policy map.

Prof. Shelley Feldman recently retired as International Professor at Cornell University and as Visiting Professor, Binghamton University. Previously she served as Director of Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, the South Asia Program, and President of the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies. She is currently researching the making of the Bangladeshi Hindu citizen as other, a theme that interrogates borders, belonging, citizenship, rights, and law.

Venue & Time:
Thu. 22 Sept. 2016
3:00 to 4:15 p.m.
ZEF Conference Rooms
Walter-Flex-Straße 3,
53113 Bonn


Dr. Claus Bech Hansen