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ISEK - Institut für Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft Ethnologie

Call for Papers

Aspirations for Change 4.0: Critical Perspectives from Southeast Asia

28-29 May 2019, University of Zurich

While Southeast Asia is often described in terms of dynamism and economic success, in recent years the other side of this story has become increasingly evident. Not only are growth rates decelerating in a number of countries, many people, sectors, regions as well as major environmental issues have been overlooked, ignored, and/or negatively affected by economic growth (Rigg 2016). In Southeast Asia and elsewhere, there has been an acceleration of rapid and uneven change resulting from a combination of local and transnational processes, a phenomenon that Eriksen (2016) calls “overheating”. These issues have, however, not so much resulted in a critique of too much development, as they have prompted calls for smarter, more sustainable and socially responsible development. Related to this is the idea that development is no longer the exclusive purview of state planners or multilateral development organizations, but now requires the involvement of a range of new actors, practices and knowledges that are part of what Daromir Rudnyckyj and Anke Schwittay (2014) refer to as the “afterlives of development”. More and more, citizens are called upon to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial in order to address the pressing issues related to reducing poverty, promoting economic growth, enhancing living conditions and protecting the environment. Indeed, it seems that, despite major economic, political and cultural differences, the dominant development mantra within contemporary Southeast Asia is one that emphasizes “innovation”, “creativity” and “entrepreneurship” as the foundation for “driving the growth and competitiveness of industries in the region” (ASEAN Declaration on Innovation 2017). Yet, as individual countries seek to move up global innovation and creativity indexes and ready themselves for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the question is: how does all of this relate to realities on the ground?

In this two-day workshop we are interested in discussing critical perspectives on aspirations for change 4.0 within Southeast Asian contexts. We would like to invite scholars whose papers introduce conceptual thoughts or empirical views on new actors, practices and discourses in development from an anthropological perspective. What are these practices and discourses about? Who is involved and who is left out? What kinds of societies are these new actors hoping to create? And what are the social and political consequences of these new ways of “rendering technical” (Li 2007) development problems and solutions?

Short abstracts (max. 300 words) can be submitted until 17 February 2019 to Dr. Esther Horat (

Organizing Committee: Prof. Dr. Annuska Derks, Dr. Rivka Eisner, Dr. Esther Horat