Keynote Speakers

Ranabir Samaddar
(Distinguished Chair, Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group, India)

Practical Ethics of Responsibility and Protection

Ranabir Samaddar is currently the Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata, India. He belongs to the critical school of thinking and is considered as one of the foremost theorists in the field of migration and forced migration studies. His writings on migration, forms of labour, urbanization, and political struggles have signaled a new turn in post-colonial thinking. Among his influential works are The Marginal Nation: Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal (1999) and Karl Marx and the Postcolonial Age (2018). His most recent publication is written in the background of the COVID pandemic, A Pandemic and the Politics of Life (2021).

The discussion on responsibility is full with philosophical, quasi-philosophical, sociological, and legal reflections while political reflection and analysis is relatively less. This is because political power is suffused with the idea of sovereignty, and very little with responsibility. While a theory of separation of powers and the constitutional principle of division of powers imply responsibility as an intrinsic element of power, yet power is measured not by responsibility but by the extent of constraints or fetters. Power inherently transgresses restraints and is therefore inherently violent. Even though power is honed with prudence to be exercised in a measured manner, yet power has the capacity to turn itself into a centre, a univocal sovereign signifier of capacity. A capillary existence of power does not guarantee the federalisation of political power or, to be precise, its existence in a responsible mode. Our study of responsibility as an essential component of politics has suffered from a top-down approach. Posing from the margins the question of responsibility is a post-colonial reflection of the way power is organized. A post-colonial framing of responsibility will mean taking into account the background of decolonization, partitions, structural reforms, environmental disasters, and neoliberal development against which population flows continue, and bio-political responses from below to events of crises. It is important to study local dynamics of power and responsibility in protection of the victims of forced migration. We need to study local and variegated experiences of refugee protection, because there is a greater burden of protection at the micro level – at the margin. We need to study the neglected histories of sovereignty as responsibility. The dual figure of migrant and refugee has emerged as a significant subject under conditions of globalization, aggressive wars, transgression of borders, and a political economy that allows differential inclusion of migrant labour. In this context, post-colonial experiences suggest plural responsibilities for protection and hospitality, and it means that we must accept legal pluralism and regional mechanisms as the foundational principle for rebuilding the architecture of protection. The salient feature of the situation at the margins is that there is no transfer of will here from the ruled to the ruler or the other way round. The feature is that of a flexible juridical structure, and a flexible sense of direction: therefore, responsibility does not have a monolithic structure asking the subject to be directed towards a point of direction. Autonomy and responsibility enmesh each other in unpredictable ways. Responsibility becomes essential to the government of the living. Mutual responsibility creates a community. It becomes the name of solidarity, the name of a collective. Solidarity, a sense of the common, and a stake in the common produce responsibility as a collective virtue.


Sandro Mezzadra
(Professor of Political Theory, Department of Arts, University of Bologna, Italy)

Reframing Internationalism: For a Politics of Freedom and Equality in an Age of War and Transition

Sandro Mezzadra is Professor of Political theory at the University of Bologna (Department of Arts) and is adjunct research fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society of Western Sydney University. He has been visiting professor and research fellow in several universities and research institutions in Europe, the US, and Latin America. He has coordinated the Horizon 2020 European research project PLUS (“Platforms, Labor, Urban Spaces”). He has published widely on such topics as borders and migration, postcolonial criticism, contemporary capitalism. Among his publications in English, In the Marxian Workshops. Producing Subjects, London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. With Brett Neilson he is the author of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (Duke University Press, 2013) and of The Politics of Operations. Excavating Contemporary Capitalism (Duke University Press, 2019).

Based on a book that I am writing with Brett Neilson I will first discuss the fractures, conflicts, and wars that are currently shaping the capitalist world system. I will introduce the notion of multipolarity to make sense of such predicament, critically discussing different uses of it and emphasizing the need to rethink the relations among what G. Arrighi calls “territorialism” and capitalism. This discussion will provide the background for a rethinking of internationalism, going beyond the pitfalls and shortcomings that characterized its history in the 20th century. I will first stress the ways in which – contrary to most approaches in IR and “geopolitics” – social movements and struggles are a key factor in the production and constitution of political spaces. Secondly, I will emphasize the need to rethink internationalism even though we may need to invent another name for it. In doing that, I will be in dialogue with feminist, antiracist and postcolonial thinkers and I will tackle a whole set of theoretical questions – ranging from the relation between internationalism and “cosmopolitics” to the vexed issue of the universal.


Pun Ngai
(Chair Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong)

Disrupting Digital Nomadism and Recharging New Class and Gendered Labor Subjects

PUN Ngai is Chair Professor and Head of the Department of Cultural Studies in Lingnan University. Pun Ngai received her Ph.D. from the University of London, SOAS in 1998. She is the winner of the 2006 C. Wright Mills Award for her book, Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace (Duke University Press, 2005). Her research interests mainly focus on migration, labour, gender and social economy. She published extensively and cross-disciplinary in top-tier journals in the areas of Cultural Studies, China Studies, Labor Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology.

Through the lens of digital nomadism, this paper aims to detail an investigation into the newly emerging digital subjects in China. Moving beyond the westernised image of digital nomads, especially in terms of their strong opposition to conventional workplaces, the newly emerging digital subjects in China instead navigate, reside, and turn their conventional workplace into the main site of social media affordance. Far from not mattering, the conventional workplace as a locale of the production sphere and a location of the labour process is central to female workers’ video production. Instead of iterating the idea of multi-site to interpret these intersections, we rather articulate the concept of “re-coupling site” to explore its overlapping and condensation of digital and cultural production. We argue that it contains two intersected layers of digital nomadization in an alternative global South context: one symbolises the re-incorporation of the conventional workplace into the digital nomadic work; based on it, the other explodes the voices and visibility of these unprivileged digital nomads against their privileged counterparts in the global North. The intersection further leads us to discuss spatial politics of deterritorization and re-occupation embedded in digital nomadism.


Ruba Salih
(Professor, Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, Italy)

Decolonisation in the 21st Century: Pitfalls and Promises

Ruba Salih is a Professor of Anthropology at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna. After a Laurea in Political Science at the University of Bologna in 1994, she was awarded a PhD in Social Anthropology in 2000 from the University of Sussex where she was a Marie Curie grant holder from 1996 to 1999. From 2010-2022 she was based at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, first as Lecturer, then as Reader in the Department of Gender Studies and finally as Full Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Prior to joining SOAS she held a position as a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Middle East Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. (2007-2010) and at the University of Bologna (Ravenna Campus). Her research interests and writing cover transnational migration and diasporas across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and gender, the Palestine question and refugees, trauma and conflict in the Middle East. She has been an elected Member of the Board of the Trustees of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences from 2015 to 2019. She has been a visiting scholar at Brown University, at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Venice, Ca’ Foscari.

She is the author of Gender in Transnationalism: Home, Longing and Belonging Among Moroccan Migrant Women, and of Musulmane Rivelate: Donne, Islam Modernita’ (winner of the Premio Pozzale 2011). Currently, she is working on a book on the aesthetics of waiting and the politics of return among Palestinian refugees, which is to be published by Cambridge University Press. Among her publications are two co-edited special issues with Sophie Richter-Devroe: “Palestine and Self-determination Beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims” in the South Atlantic Quarterly (2018) and “Cultures of Resistance in Palestine and Beyond: On the Politics of Arts, Aesthetic and Affect” in the Arab Studies Journal (2014). Her most recent articles include: “Displacing the Anthropocene: Colonisation, Extinction and the Unruliness of Nature in Palestine” with Olaf Corry in Environment and Planning E. Nature and Space (2021), and “From Standing Rock to Palestine We are United: diaspora politics, decolonisation and the intersectionality of struggles” with Elena Zambelli and Lynn Welchman in Ethnic and Racial Studies (2020).

The notion of the “Coloniality of power” has informed much of the contemporary decolonial scholarship. Elaborated by Annibal Qujiano, it provided a paradigm shifting understanding of colonialism as an open-ended spatial articulation of power that has been constitutive of modernity since the 16th century Atlantic trade. In this framework, the temporal differentiation between colonial and post-colonial conditions is problematised. Colonialism is not a derivative historical moment of modernity ending with independence and national sovereignty, the production of colonial differences is ongoing and palpable across the Global North and South. At work today we continue to see a planetary racial-capitalist system perpetuating the epistemic and structural conditions for the exploitation and control of Black and brown bodies, and of their land, resources and labour. Despite widespread reference to this understanding of the colonial, “decoloniality” has been engaged mainly as an epistemic project decoupled from struggles for racial and social justice and attendant activist knowledges. When disconnected from the historical legacy of anti-colonial movements, and from contemporary anti-racist and indigenous struggles, decolonisation can easily be appropriated by marketized higher education institutions or even by nativist movements in pursuit of anti-immigrant agendas. In this talk I reflect on the risks of the “colonisation of the decolonial” and offer some thoughts about how to reposition decolonisation as a radical transformative project within and beyond academia.


Tess Lea
(Head, Department of Community, Culture and Global Studies, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada)

Policy Ghosts and Decolonisation in the 21st Century

Tess Lea is an anthropologist who specializes in the analysis of Indigenous navigations of settler colonial policies under conditions of continuing occupation, tracking how benefit is tied to entrapment. She also explores how militarization, extractivism and concepts of ‘a good life’ depend on Indigenous immiseration. Her most recent book, Wild policy: Indigeneity and the Unruly Logics of Intervention (Stanford) asks the question: Can there be good social policy? This book describes what happens to Indigenous policy when it targets the supposedly ‘wild people’ of regional and remote Australia. Tess Lea explores naturalized policy: policy unplugged, gone live, ramifying in everyday life, to show that it is policies that are wild, not the people being targeted. She is currently Head, Department of Community, Culture and Global Studies, University of British Columbia—Okanagan, which is situated on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.

This address twists an old concern with the origins of dysfunctional social policy in Indigenous affairs to a belated recognition of the co-dependencies these speak to, tracing the laminations of policies past and present to the endurance of extractive colonialism within our collective bodies. For a very long time, my research sought to make sense of the insensibilities of Indigenous social policy in Australia, while remaining curiously blind to how the byzantine social policy fields encountered by Indigenous people enables the settler colonial good life (beyond recognition of the primary act of land theft). Colonial regimes enable forms of extractivism which feeds and shelters many. A question remains, can we give colonisation up?