Vandana Shiva headlines International Conference on South Asian Popular Culture at Fairfield University


Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose campaign to preserve the world's food supply from being ravaged by large multinational companies that strip the land of nutrients has gained international attention, will be the keynote speaker at Fairfield University's conference, "Voices From A Globalized South Asia: Social Justice & Cultural Hybridity," scheduled for Friday, Aug. 22, and Saturday, Aug. 23. Dr. Shiva will give the keynote address, "Globalization vs. Earth Democracy," on Friday at 10 a.m.

The event will take place in the Multi Media Room in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library at Fairfield University.

The conference will also serve as the U.S. launch of the Journal of South Asian Popular Culture (Routledge), a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal to be published biannually in response to the growing, global interest in South Asian popular culture. Dr. Gita Rajan, associate professor in the English Department at Fairfield University, is the U.S. Editor of the Journal and the organizer of the conference.

Dr. Shiva has emerged as one of the most outspoken proponents of the rights of the peoples of the global South, and has been recognized by ASIA WEEK as one of the Top Five Most Powerful Persons in Asia. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including in 1993 the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, known as "the alternative Nobel Prize." Shiva holds a master's degree in particle physics and a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science, and is the author of more than 13 books on subjects such as biodiversity, intellectual property rights, WTO's policies and sustainable development, and the plight of women in the South.

In her native India, Shiva started the Research Foundation for Science Technology and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi. She also directs a seed conservation project, and is part of the Indian National Environmental Council. Shiva works with communities to stop threats to forests and agricultural land, is involved with large-scale issues, such as the International Convention on Biological Diversity, and serves on the board of numerous, powerful non-governmental organizations associated with the United Nations (NGOs).

Shiva tells of farmers in India who have been persuaded to replace their native seeds with new hybrids which need to be purchased every year at a high cost, and are very vulnerable to pest attacks. In addition, she highlights the fact that droughts have occurred in many parts of the global South because of the mining of scarce ground water in arid regions in order to grow thirsty cash crops for exports instead of water prudent food crops for local needs. Research done by the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, she says, has shown that small biodiverse farms can produce thousands of times more food than large, industrial monocultures.

Dr. Rajan said, "Vandana Shiva's presence, at this moment in Fairfield University's institutional history is indeed felicitous, because we are debating the role and responsibility of the Jesuit tradition within globalization." Dr. Orin Grossman, academic vice president, who will inaugurate the conference, said "I am very pleased that Dr. Shiva will be addressing the conference. Her views will be vital as the attendees discuss issues of globalization."

The conference will also feature plenary panel lectures by Chandra Talpade Mohanty from Hamilton College and Kum Kum Bhavnani from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Mohanty will speak on "Desi Feminist Confronts US Empire: On Citizenship, Identity, & Pedagogic Dissent," and Bhavnani on, "South Asian Culture in the Diaspora: Mapping the Popular." Mohanty, author of Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Duke University Press), blazed a trail in the U.S. academy with her landmark essay "Under Western Eyes" about critical challenges facing western feminism and the role of women of color in the movement. Bhavnani's recent book, Femininst Futures: Re-Imagining Women, Culture, and Development (Zed Press) is hailed as being foundational in globalization and gender studies.

The conference, with 31 participants from universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and India, will speak on topics ranging from Bollywood's impact upon global culture to diasporic music and visual art in South Asian popular culture, and transnational feminisms and the global politics of gender. Many of Fairfield University's faculty are actively involved in the conference.

The conference is made possible with a grant from the Humanities Institute and with the support of the Academic Vice President's Office; the English, Politics, Religious Studies, Economics, Communications, Philosophy, and Management Departments; the Patrick J. Waide Jr. Fund; and the Women's Studies, Asian Studies, Peace and Justice Studies, and International Studies Programs at Fairfield University.

To register for one or both days of the conference and to receive a schedule, please call Ms. Linda Miller at (203) 254 4000 x2810.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 11, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 16