Measuring Futures: Expertise and Postcolonial Politics in Asia

Through December 11, 2018
UChicago Center in Delhi

Dec. 10

This interdisciplinary, international conference made possible through generous funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropology, will explore the impact of postwar information sciences on the dilemmas of decolonization and development in Asia from WWII to the present. 

How did new nations (including India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan) use, resist, or alter the terrain of growing postwar American techno-sciences, in fields such as economics, demography, statistics, and urban planning?  How did such sciences intersect with contentious public debates about the shape of societal futures?  How was the future imagined, measured, and co-opted, often within increasingly technical frameworks by planners, technocrats, and social movements in the later half of the 20th century?

This conference seeks to connect three things, starting in the postwar period:

The rise of new social sciences (behavioural science, development economics, city planning, etc.) that produce new kinds of information, knowledge, and power,
The emergence of postwar states with new institutional responsibilities, aspirations, and institutional organisation, and
The impact of new kinds of power in governance, including the use of and control over new kinds of information in Asia, from World War II to the present.

The conference brings together experts from India with colleagues from Europe, North America and Southeast Asia to ask new questions about data's role in 20th century governance. With special attention to India, Singapore and China, via intra-Asian comparisons, we attempt to write a new history of postcolonial politics in Asia, updating important, earlier investigations of colonialism and its knowledge forms by comparatively delineating postcolonial developments and trajectories.  By examining the spread, reach, and consequences of Asia’s information practices, we hope to resituate and reconsider current scholarly concerns about automation, algorithmic governance, the management of risk, and the emergence of global media publics, from the perspective of historical development and change across southern and eastern Asia.

The School of Global Affairs at Ambedkar University, Delhi are the co-sponsors of this conference. 

This event is by invitation only.