CfP: Underclasses and the Law in Southeast Asia: Epistemologies and Experiences

00:00 to 00:00
Call for Papers

This publication-driven workshop considers the role of law in the formation, erosion, and mobilization of identities known collectively as the “underclass”. It examines the epistemological processes and institutions underlying the legal/administrative/scholarly construction of the underclass in Southeast Asia.  Following recent work that has sought to unpack this notion of a “subpopulation” in a predominantly N. American context, we explore how this community of advanced marginality has been constructed in Southeast Asian contexts over time and space (Wacquant 2022). Second, this workshop directs fresh attention to exploring the lives, experiences, and contributions of an epistemological underclass—bureaucrats, paralegals, witnesses, defendants, jurors, translators, clerks, informants, court personnel, legislators, archivists, fixers, editors, and web designers—who operate in the background, alongside, or behind the scenes of the knowledge production process (Said, 1989). In doing so, we treat the underclass not only as the object of legal-scholarly epistemologies, but as active subjects in the construction of knowledge pertaining to marginality in Southeast Asia.

Selected papers should address one or more of the following questions:

  1. What is the role of the law in the construction of the underclass?
  2. What aspects of legal rationale, method, and/or practice contribute to the construction of underclass as both a legal and humanities/social science category?
  3. How are notions of identity, community, and culture acquired and appropriated by law in their rendering of the underclass?
  4. In what ways do particular social, political, cultural, or intellectual contexts or concerns shape legal notions of the underclass?
  5. In what ways do spatial contexts inform legal understandings of the underclass and in what ways does law delineate spaces associated with the underclass?
  6. How might we define the “epistemological underclass” and what are their heuristic/intellectual contributions to the study of Southeast Asia?
  7. What are the epistemological legacies of research on the underclass in our understanding of historical and contemporary Southeast Asia?
  8. How has court or judicial rhetoric shaped the discourses of the underclass and how have discourses of the underclass shaped legal rhetoric?


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words maximum), and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 1 February 2023. Please also include a statement confirming that your paper has not been published or committed elsewhere, and that you are willing to revise your paper for potential inclusion in an edited book publication (in collaboration with the workshop organizers and other participants).

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms Valerie Yeo at [email protected]. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of February. Panel presenters will be required to submit drafts of papers (4,000-6,000) words by 15 July 2023. 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.

The workshop will accommodate both in-person and online participants, as needed. If possible, the Asia Research Institute will provide overseas participants with full or partial airfare as well as three nights of accommodation. Please indicate in the proposal form if you require funding support.

Read more here

Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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