Programme

The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS) is an interdisciplinary conference held alongside The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS). Keynote, Featured and Spotlight Speakers will provide a variety of perspectives from different academic and professional backgrounds. Registration for either conference will allow delegates to attend sessions in the other.

This page provides details of presentations and other programming. For more information about presenters, please visit the Speakers page.


  • Indigenous Resurgence and Environmental Justice on the Global Stage
    Indigenous Resurgence and Environmental Justice on the Global Stage
    Keynote Presentation: Professor Helen Gilbert
  • Poetic Resistance and Empowerment
    Poetic Resistance and Empowerment
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Tammy Lai-Ming Ho
  • The Challenge of the Global South
    The Challenge of the Global South
    Keynote Presentation: Professor Vinay Lal
  • Fearful Futures: Rescuing Asian Democracy
    Fearful Futures: Rescuing Asian Democracy
    Featured Panel Presentation: Professor Haruko Satoh, Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun & Dr Colin Duerkop
  • The Cities We Fled
    The Cities We Fled
    Keynote Presentation: Professor Donald E. Hall
  • IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session
    IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session
  • IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2017 | Award Winners Screening
    IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2017 | Award Winners Screening

Previous Programming

View details of programming for past ACCS conferences via the links below.

Indigenous Resurgence and Environmental Justice on the Global Stage
Keynote Presentation: Professor Helen Gilbert

Once largely ignored beyond their local contexts, the ecological concerns of indigenous groups now register to broad international constituencies, in both public and scientific arenas, as they increasingly align with evidence of our planet’s precarity – and its volatility – as a life-sustaining system. This presentation traces the ways in which environmental concerns have been broached in recent indigenous performances, while also suggesting the global arena in which such concerns play out, sometimes contentiously. I will begin with a brief discussion of the 2015 People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs in London and the UN Climate Summit held in Paris shortly afterwards. Both events featured indigenous protests covered by international media, and acted, however temporarily, as new public nodes in a loosely configured global network manifesting the eco-political resurgence of indigenous communities. Within this broad canvass, my focus then segues to two creative works that take on the artistic labour of environmental activism: an interactive installation, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis! Sinking Islands, Unsinkable Art, created by Kiribati community members for the 2017 Venice Biennale, and Cut the Sky (2015), a multi-dimensional performance staged in Europe, Canada and Australia by intercultural dance-theatre company Marrugeku. The first issues a plea for collective action on global warming while also enacting the quiet resilience of the island nation’s inhabitants; the second choreographs a haunting vision of extreme weather events, tempered by the insights of Aboriginal knowledge systems. Both show that environmental justice is crucial not only for the wellbeing of the marginalised but also for humanity as a whole. Discussion of these works’ distinctive campaigns for climate action will be informed by Rob Nixon’s theorisations of incremental ecosystem destruction as a ‘slow violence’ dispersed across time and space.

Image | Impacts of coastal erosion and drought on coconut palms in Eita, Tarawa, Kiribati

Read presenter biographies.

Poetic Resistance and Empowerment
Keynote Presentation: Dr Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

July 1, 2017 marked the twentieth anniversary of the return of Hong Kong's sovereignty from the UK to China. On the face of it, Hong Kong may not seem to have changed very much since the 1997 handover. However, beneath this veneer of immutability, people in the city have witnessed and experienced changes - subtle at the very beginning but in recent years increasingly evident - that could prove to be as irrevocable as they are tangible. One of these changes concerns language.

The majority of the population in Hong Kong speak Cantonese as a first language, even though some may speak Mandarin, English or other languages at work. A constantly evolving language, Cantonese is unfortunately being stifled and side-lined institutionally in Hong Kong and there is a sense that it is "endangered". With all this background in mind, I have been intrigued by the various ways non-English native Hong Kong poets incorporate foreign elements, including language, form and thought, into "the local ethos" of Hong Kong in their work.

Aspects of interest are the appropriation of Western poetic forms, explicit references to Western writers in epigraphs or even the body of the texts, reworking and transposing lines from Western poems to suit the Hong Kong cultural and political context, and creative misreadings and wilful erasures of Western texts. The paper then takes as a case study the poetry of the Hong Kong poet Nicholas Wong, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry in 2015 for his second poetry collection Crevasse. Looking at the haiku sequence at the end of Crevasse, which is an erasure of letters between James Schuyler and Frank O'Hara, Wong's long Occupy Central poem, and several others, this section investigates how Western literature and culture are incorporated into the expression of a unique Hong Kong identity filtered through gender politics, bilingualism, cultural production and Hong Kong-China relations. The paper ends with a reflection on the impossibility of fashioning a coherent narrative about Hong Kong, and the potential strengths and drawbacks of this reality.

Read presenter biographies.

The Challenge of the Global South
Keynote Presentation: Professor Vinay Lal

It is commonly thought that the idea of the Global South received its first major articulation at the Afro-Asian Conference held at Bandung in 1955. However, the genealogy of the idea is far more complicated, since Bandung cannot be read only as an endeavour to forge solidarity between formerly colonised subjects or to create a third path that would steer clear of both the West and what was then the Soviet bloc. Rather, the challenge of Bandung, one that not only remains with us today but if anything has acquired ever greater urgency, is to understand whether the Global South can mount an intellectual and socio-cultural defence that would facilitate the conditions for an ecologically genuine survival of plurality. Two considerations, as I shall argue, must reign supreme in any such endeavour. First, centuries of colonial oppression had, among other devastating consequences, the effect of eviscerating memories and histories of South-South contacts, many of which preceded the interaction of most countries in the South with nations of the West. One consequence of colonialism that persists with us today is that nearly all intellectual exchanges within the South are mediated by the West. A second related but distinct consideration is that it cannot suffice to understand oppression through the categories made familiar by liberal and Marxist analyses, among them racism, class warfare, ‘economic terrorism’, the military-industrial complex, and so on. Western social science, in particular, has generated a nearly insurmountable imperialism of categories, such that the histories and experiences of people in the South are interpreted through the templates generated in the Western academy. Is it possible for the South to galvanise its intellectual inheritance and socio-cultural resources to offer dissenting frameworks of knowledge? It is in these terms that the challenge of the South must be understood.

Read presenter biographies.

Fearful Futures: Rescuing Asian Democracy
Featured Panel Presentation: Professor Haruko Satoh, Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun & Dr Colin Duerkop

The wave of democratisation in post-Cold War decades, globalisation is often understood as the triumph of the international liberal order over the socialist model of political economy. Wealth creation through capitalism and political liberalisation (or democratisation) are supposed to go hand in hand, and at the end of the road history is supposed to ‘end’ with the proliferation of liberal democracies. This Western-centric idea of where the world should be headed, based on the notion that liberal values are universal, is buttressed by the institutions, norms, rules and regulations of Western design that bind international politics today. Yet, at the same time, issues of identity, culture and values have emerged in this discourse between the West (broadly defined) and Asia as an area of negotiation, if not outright contestation, in the course of a more complex and intense intercourse between the West that tries to assist democratisation and market economy in other parts of the world and the "post-colonial" rest, many of whose democratic foundations are challenged by the necessity of further (and sustainable) economic development or under threat from the return of authoritarianism. China's growing influence through its aggressive development aid policies (such as the Belt & Road Initiative and AIIB) is a relatively new challenge to nurturing democratic movements. What would be a meaningful dialogue and mode of engagement between "the West and the rest" in order to rescue democracy from its multifaceted perils of a changing world under globalisation?

Read presenter biographies.

The Cities We Fled
Keynote Presentation: Professor Donald E. Hall

In this keynote presentation, Donald E. Hall of Lehigh University will discuss the city of his birth: Birmingham, Alabama (USA). While we often celebrate cities as places of vibrant artistic and cultural innovation and stimulation, cities can also feel like traps to some citizens if the values and priorities they embody are not compatible with the lives and interests of those inhabitants.

In discussing the personal journey out of his birth city, Professor Hall will pose questions to the audience for all to consider: What do we need from cities? How do some cities become lost in their pasts and therefore unable to embrace the changing needs of their populations? What causes some cities to languish, stagnate, and alienate, while other reinvent themselves and thrive? Following the keynote, the audience will be asked to provide their own thoughts on cities as sites of pleasure and pain.

Read presenter biographies.

IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session

As an organization, IAFOR’s mission is to promote international exchange, facilitate intercultural awareness, encourage interdisciplinary discussion, and generate and share new knowledge. In 2018, we are excited to launch a major new and ambitious international, intercultural and interdisciplinary research initiative which uses the silk road trade routes as a lens through which to study some of the world’s largest historical and contemporary geopolitical trends, shifts and exchanges.

IAFOR is headquartered in Japan, and the 2018 inauguration of this project aligns with the 150th Anniversary of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when Japan opened its doors to the trade and ideas that would precipitate its rapid modernisation and its emergence as a global power. At a time when global trends can seem unpredictable, and futures fearful, the IAFOR Silk Road Initiative gives the opportunity to revisit the question of the impact of international relations from a long-term perspective.

This ambitious initiative will encourage individuals and institutions working across the world to support and undertake research centring on the contact between countries and regions in Europe and Asia – from Gibraltar to Japan – and the maritime routes that went beyond, into the South-East Continent and the Philippines, and later out into the Pacific Islands and the United States. The IAFOR Silk Road Initiative will be concerned with all aspects of this contact, and will examine both material and intellectual traces, as well as consequences.

For more information about the IAFOR Silk Road Initiative, click here.

IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2017 | Award Winners Screening

The IAFOR Documentary Photography Award was launched by The International Academic Forum (IAFOR) in 2015 as an international photography award that seeks to promote and assist in the professional development of emerging documentary photographers and photojournalists. The award has benefitted since the outset from the expertise of an outstanding panel of internationally renowned photographers, including Dr Paul Lowe as the Founding Judge, and Ed Kashi, Monica Allende, Simon Roberts, Jocelyn Bain Hogg, Simon Norfolk and Emma Bowkett as Guest Judges. Now in its third year, the award has already been widely recognised by those in the industry and has been supported by World Press Photo, Metro Imaging, MediaStorm, Think Tank Photo, University of the Arts London, RMIT University, British Journal of Photography, The Centre for Documentary Practice, and the Medill School of Journalism.

As an organisation, IAFOR’s mission is to promote international exchange, facilitate intercultural awareness, encourage interdisciplinary discussion, and generate and share new knowledge. In keeping with this mission, in appreciation of the great value of photography as a medium that can be shared across borders of language, culture and nation, and to influence and inform our academic work and programmes, the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award was launched as a competition that would help underline the importance of the organisation’s aims, and would promote and recognise best practice and excellence.

Winners of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2017 were announced at The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film 2017 (EuroMedia2017) in Brighton, UK. The award follows the theme of the EuroMedia conference, with 2017’s theme being “History, Story, Narrative”. In support of up-and-coming talent, the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award is free to enter.

Access to the Award Winners Screening is included in the conference registration fee. For more information about the award, click here.

Image | From the project Single Mothers of Afghanistan by IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2017 Grand Prize Winner, Kiana Hayeri.