This year’s annual South Asia Conference of the Pacific Northwest (SACPAN) was held on May 5–6, 2023, by the South Asia Center in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. Founded in 1966 by an interdisciplinary group of colleagues from UW and the University of British Columbia, SACPAN is today a collaborative venture sponsored by South Asia specialists at UW, UBC, the University of Oregon, and other institutions in the region. One of the oldest centers of South Asian migration in North America, the Pacific Northwest is an ideal location for a public conference that promotes a richer understanding of South Asia in global, transnational, cross-border, and transregional contexts.
This two-day event began with a welcome address by Anand Yang, Professor of History and International Studies, UW. The conference featured seven panels consisting of diverse themes: Labor and Precarity – Gendered Voices from a New Generation; Social Media, Networking, and Dissent in South Asia; Ethics, Urbanity, and Citizenship; Remaking a Literary World – Periodicals, Nationalism, and Agency in South Asia; Media, Representation, and the Afterlife of Trauma; Multiple Frameworks – Solidarity, Affinity, and Ethics in Postcolonial Cultures; and Whose “Tradition?” Meaning Making in Contemporary and Past Networks. Around 22 presenters from different universities of the Pacific Northwest covered a broad array of topics ranging from language and literature, history, gender, politics, caste, class and religion in South Asia.
Ravinder Kaur, Associate Professor of Modern South Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen, delivered a keynote lecture, “Who Owns the Memory of Partition?” Focusing on the concept of the political to unpack the public life of Partition memory by drawing attention to the art and aesthetics of the popular history of Partition, Kaur asks, Whose wounds can be preserved, exhibited, and recognized in the public domain? What kinds of memorialization? And finally, who precisely inhabits the category of “Human” in this human tragedy? The conference also featured a book discussion by Anne Murphy, Associate Professor of History, University of British Columbia, on her book “A Possible Punjabi? Decolonization and Political Theory of the Creative.”
This intimate event concluded with a dance performance by Kuldeep Singh, Full-Time Lecturer of Painting & Drawing, UW. It was an immersive performance on recorded Hindustani classical music through Abhinaya in Odissi dance. Closing remarks were delivered by Purnima Dhavan, Associate Professor of History, UW, who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to gather in person and share in intellectual exchange at SACPAN 2023.