Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Environments, Spaces and Transformations: Inaugural MFCO Early Career-Graduate Conference
5-6 June 2014

Friday, 1 November 2013

Environments, Spaces and Transformations_Transformations_186

Keynote Speakers

2014_EST_Fiona Allon_keynote

Fiona Allon

Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney, Australia

Dr. Fiona Allon is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and supervisory interests cross-areas such as Space, Place and Urban Cultures, Environmental Humanities, Gender and Labour, and Consumer Cultures. She is a member of the Sydney Environment Institute and is currently working on a number of projects including 'Waste Matters: Cultural studies of waste and the city' and 'Hipster Urbanism: Cities, Restructuring and the Pop Up: Spatial Fix'. Her publications include Renovation Nation: Our Obsession with Home (2008) and the recent articles ‘The Wealth Affect: Speculation as everyday habitus’ (forthcoming), ‘Ghosts of the Open City’ (2013) and ‘Ethical Consumption Begins at Home: Green Renovations, Eco-Homes and Sustainable Home Improvement’ (2011).

^ Top of Page

Dwelling Spaces: Everyday Environmentalism and the Transformation of Urban Assemblages

In recent years, there has been renewed attention to the materiality of urban space. In turn this has led to a recognition that dynamic arrangements and rearrangements of bodies, matter, energy, objects, technologies and natures ‘assemble’ the city in multiple ways, and are not so easily captured by spatial terms such as ‘site’, ‘scale’, ‘locality’ or ‘cluster’. The concept of the ‘environment’, likewise, has been challenged for assuming a passive backdrop for human action, a space of nature that serves human culture, rather than a hybrid ecology of human and nonhuman elements. The notion of ‘transformation’, too, is now seen less as movement between fixed points and more as an unpredictable process of emergence that is unhinged from the human subject yet still utterly transformative of social formations. With these analytical shifts in mind this paper will address the development of ‘everyday environmentalism’ and the redefinition of forms of dwelling and belonging at a time of global economic, environmental and cultural flux. It will focus on the reorganisation of urban energy, water and waste infrastructures and the new chains of material agents, including the agency of the household, this brings into play. If ‘modern’ Western material life and subjectivity is the result of such socio-technical infrastructures, then it is also possible to investigate forms of life and subjectivity that emerge from their current transformation. This perspective considers the roles played by both human and non-human agents in the co-evolution of ways of life, ethics and politics formed over time and across space. Such an approach also provides for a better understanding of the way certain subjectivities, habits and practices are materialised through social and technological infrastructures, as well as a glimpse of the possibilities of living otherwise.

^ Top of Page

Vijay Devadas_186

Vijay Devadas

Department of Media, Film and Communication, University of Otago

Vijay Devadas is Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Film & Communication, University of Otago. His most recent publications include a co-edited book The Fourth Eye: Indigenous Media in Aotearoa New Zealand (Uni. of Minnesota Press, 2013), journal articles, & book chapters on media and neoliberal politics; media, terror & sovereignty; and new media & democracy in Malaysia. He is currently working on a book-length project titled "Cultivating Futures: The Social Life of Youth in Chennai". He is editor of the international journal borderlands, Associate Director of the New Zealand India Research Institute, and founding member of the Postcolonial Studies Research Network at the University of Otago.

^ Top of Page

Youth and the Politics of Globalization in Contemporary India: The view from Chennai

This paper is about globalization in the capital-city of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Unlike other mediations on globalization in India, which focus on macro-level analysis of economic agendas, social policies, and development initiatives, this examination of globalization is at the micro level: it is concerned with examining the ways in which globalization is experienced by a specific sociality: the youth, exemplary subjects of contemporary globalization. Through ethnographic research this paper aims to make visible the complexities and intricacies of the social lives of youths and fold this into accounts of contemporary globalization in India, and contribute to critical discussions of globalization. The research is driven by a simple, yet somewhat complex, question: how do youths in this mega-city cultivate practices, practical techniques, strategies and tactics, bonds, and socialities, to negotiate globalization? The argument I advance is the following — a micro-level study of the youth-globalization interface in Chennai reveals that this relationship is both complex and graduated. It is complex because it ushers in new modalities of consumption, enactments of citizenship, notions of mobility and immobility, empowerment and disempowerment, autonomy and repression, and inclusions and exclusions. It also challenges, affirms, and perpetuates existing forms of inequalities, regimes of power, cultural normativities, and social expectations. At the same time, the relationship to globalization is graduated because it is mediated by, and through, notions of caste, class, gender, race, and social status. In short, the experiences of globalization is highly contingent, contradictory, and also normative — oscillating between ‘the politics of possibility … [and] the politics of probability” (Appadurai, 2013). What do the experiential contradictions tell us about theorising the politics of globalisation in contemporary India? I turn to the work of Comaroff & Comaroff (2001) and Appadurai (2013) to argue that a critical study of globalization in India must recognize that the individual and collective practices express the tenuous relationship between consent, domination, and resistance.