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.


  • I am a Fan of Fandom
    I am a Fan of Fandom
    Keynote Presentation: Keiko Bang
  • Resisting the Cynical Turn: Projections of a Desirably Queer Future
    Resisting the Cynical Turn: Projections of a Desirably Queer Future
    Keynote Presentation: Donald E. Hall
  • Inhabiting the Open
    Inhabiting the Open
    Keynote Presentation: John Nguyet Erni
  • Love as an Algorithm
    Love as an Algorithm
    Keynote Presentation: Gloria Montero
  • Frida K. – a dialogue for a single actress
    Frida K. – a dialogue for a single actress
    Keynote Presentation: Gloria Montero
  • An Eco-humanising Post To The Future
    An Eco-humanising Post To The Future
    Keynote Presentation: Baden Offord
  • Can we agree to disagree? Unreclaimable Futures
    Can we agree to disagree? Unreclaimable Futures
    Keynote Presentation: Sue Ballyn
  • IAFOR Documentary Photography Award & Interview
    IAFOR Documentary Photography Award & Interview
    IAFOR Documentary Photography Award Screening & Interview: Ezra Acayan, Donald E. Hall

Previous Programming

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

I am a Fan of Fandom
Keynote Presentation: Keiko Bang

The internet today and its wired world of users, connectors and creators has served not only as a tool for curation of those things they are passionate about, it has created fandoms. Fandoms were first recorded in the late 19th century when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and caused pandemonium by protesting fans at the publisher’s office. We have them to thank for another decade of Sherlock’s adventures. Through the years and particularly with the birth of television, fans began to become passionate about programs, their characters and entire genres in turn launching Trekkie and Star See Wars conventions. Today, the world is awash in fandoms, from Comic Con, to Bronies (fans of My Little Pony), Potterheads and of course A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones). But no other fandom has entirely captured a fandom as large, broad and engaged as that of Korean pop music. According to Google, there are more than 600 million K-Pop fans across 235 countries with over 80 billion clicks on YouTube. Never has such a fandom emerged entirely on the internet without television or radio and without the help of the US entertainment industrial complex. The behaviours manifested by this fandom augur a future where fandoms coalesce around what they truly love, “passion communities” that act in unique and innovative ways. The way in which these fans both follow K-Pop as well as are manipulated in a subtle fashion by Korean entertainment companies offers a view on the way the internet is likely to transform in the future. As we transform from an era of aggregation to curation, these fandoms will provide people with passion about everything from fishing to collecting iguanas, from knitting to playing chess, affecting even academia; enabling amateur researchers both to provide diverse input and serve as a powerful and cost-effective means to contribute to the greatest questions of all time.

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Resisting the Cynical Turn: Projections of a Desirably Queer Future
Keynote Presentation: Donald E. Hall

While the current political moment certainly invites a sense of defeatism among those of us in arts, humanities, and cultural studies—and makes a retreat into cynicism and political apathy an attractive option—the times call for a renewed sense of commitment and a much more assertive response. We on the cultural left—especially in higher education—have a base level responsibility to lead the way out of our climate of reactionary nationalism and anti-intellectualism. We are the ones best able to imagine a different future and articulate its desirability. Practitioners in the arts, humanities, and cultural studies are best positioned to provide the utopic thinking that has the power to motivate. In returning to some of the core tenets of activist-based queer theory, and melding those with the tentative and probing dialogics offered by the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, we have tools to rally those who feel oppressed and defeated by current political rhetoric. A calculated, cautious, but deliberately vocal optimism serves the interests of our students, our profession, and our fellow citizens. The cultural right asks us to withdraw, to be silent, to give up hope—our best response is to do the opposite. By imagining and articulating a more egalitarian, cosmopolitan, and desirably queer future, we can direct attention to the true cynics—those who believe that top-down power will be accepted without question and that sexism/racism/homophobia can be normalized in order to divide, scare, and manipulate the masses. We—artists, writers, philosophers, and theorists—have the creativity and mental nimbleness to challenge and change the world, if we accept our responsibility as educators and re-commit ourselves to doing so.

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Inhabiting the Open
Keynote Presentation: John Nguyet Erni

In its engagement with community life, especially through educational spaces, cultural studies plays a special role in instilling a determination for struggle for freedom and a strong sense of creativity, both of which are much needed in times of increasing global complexity. For many of us who work with young people in educational settings, we have learned that one of the keys to unlock their critical imagination for a liveable future – one underscored by freedom and creativity – is about “being open.” Yet how many times have we encountered the saying “to be open”? Especially in an education environment, we craft our visions around the need to train our students to be open-minded individuals who are, ideally, cross-culturally exposed, multiply linguistically competent, and globally actionable. In modern education, to meet the challenges of this increasingly complex world, we liberal thinkers form our curricula around “the open,” through theoretical variants like comparative culturalism and moral variants like diversity training. Yet once we try to pin down “the open” within established categories and conventions of thought, no experience could be more elusive. What is the open? Based on my cultural research on minorities, I shall share my thinking on how not to “exhabit” the social and cultural horizon so as to be poised to reclaim the future.

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Love as an Algorithm
Keynote Presentation: Gloria Montero

While cognitive scientist Steven Pinker keeps assuring us that prosperity, safety, peace and even happiness are on the rise worldwide, other scientists and philosophers as diverse as Stephen Hawking, Timothy Morton and Yuval Noah Harari warn us that the world as we have known it, and even ourselves, are on the verge of a devastating change. Climate catastrophe might well lead to global destruction, while artificial intelligence and biological engineering threaten to make human beings redundant. Extinction, we are told, is the norm, survival the exception. Living amidst the devastating possibilities which in this age of acceleration could prove remarkably close, have we humans already been subject to a mutation: a growing fear translated into a generalized disregard for the other, a refusal to pay attention and accept responsibility if it threatens our own comfort, even a developing propensity for hate? As conscious beings with the ability to distinguish between cause and effect, means and ends, we are witnesses to what goes on in our world. While many of the practical and ethical decisions vis a vis the immediate future need to be made with knowledge and power beyond that of the ordinary citizen, my personal conviction is that Love presents each and every one of us with a clear and vital algorithm for our endurance. Love in its most comprehensive connotation as a recognition of our profound interrelatedness – humans, animals, plants, the earth itself, the stars – every single element in the universe. True awareness of this extraordinary interconnection demands an attentiveness to what is going on, exacts not only an active concern for the other but an outright respect for our differences, along with the ineluctable conviction that only by sharing responsibility can we hope to survive. As we are thrust headlong into the pending Anthropocene, Love might well be our one viable path to a future.

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Frida K. – a dialogue for a single actress
Keynote Presentation: Gloria Montero

"… a wonderful play… absolutely rivetting … astounding … if you have ever wondered about the power of theatre, go see this show”. CBC Toronto


Gloria Montero's award-winning Frida K., written for her daughter, actress Allegra Fulton, takes place on the day of Frida’s first and only solo exhibition in her native Mexico. Devastated by broken health, Frida reminisces and rages as she recounts her tormented marriage to muralist Diego Rivera, his many infidelities, her own affairs with Trotsky and others, all told against a background of the fashionable art scenes of Paris and New York, the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. As Frida prepares not only for her exhibition but for her approaching death, she reveals how a life of crippling pain has been transformed into paintings of terrifying power.

Frida – who lived intensely through the political and artistic revolutions that shaped the 20th century – is truly a woman of our time. Vulnerable and provocative, Frida is a classic modern heroine. The myth she fabricated out of the tragedy of her life holds its own beside those of Medea, Antigone and Electra of ancient times.

Frida K. was first produced in the Toronto Fringe Festival with Metal Corset Co., in 1994, starring Allegra Fulton and directed by Peter Hinton. From 1995 to 2011, Frida K. was produced in Canada, the UK, the USA, Spain, Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland, and Latvia. The play has won rave reviews and received multiple awards.

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An Eco-humanising Post To The Future
Keynote Presentation: Baden Offord

Reclaiming the future requires a deep contextual and complex effort combining intellectual and creative energies focussed on the active/present connectedness of things, or otherwise, “staying with the trouble” as Donna Haraway puts it. This presentation, which will be in the form of a post to the future, explores the question: What is a decolonial, queer, eco-cultural approach to the possibilities of alternative, eco-humanising futures other than those that dominate our troubled and dangerous world? What is the measure of coherence needed to get beyond the ongoing nature of our current complicit futures? Through a lyrical, second person perspective, the post will speak to the imperative of “staying with the trouble”, of grappling, stirring and dealing with what makes us complicit to living without participating in connectedness, of ignoring the everyday encounter with otherness (human and non-human) in all of its rich forms. It will be argued that in reclaiming the future there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. You sense there is urgency in all this. As Greta Thunberg says: “Our house is burning”.

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Can we agree to disagree? Unreclaimable Futures
Keynote Presentation: Sue Ballyn

“From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back.”
― Franz Kafka

Much as I would like to believe that there is a future or futures that are reclaimable; that social and political balance, compassion, love, peace, together with a long list of other hopes, will be restored and a better world/planet emerge, I sincerely believe that we are reaching Kafka´s path of no “turning back”. We are at that “certain point onward”, the Anthropocene, which is affecting not just the planet but every aspect of human life and from which there seems to be no return. A long and painful downhill ride lies ahead of us. When climate and social change manifest their destructive power, will the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and countries be able to break the ancestral chain of their oppression of the other?

As educators in the humanities, are we able to swing any change in our current systems and the prospect ahead of us? The Call for Papers for this conference has a utopian tone to it, offering hope in humanity’s ability to regenerate into the positive. I do not believe we can do much in the current avalanche to the extreme right/left wing, to the rise in racism, homophobia, entrenched fear of the other and the list goes on. If, in a class of fifty of whatever political and social standing, I could swing two students into a conscious awareness and proactive mindset regarding what is happening to the world and the future, I would call it a sign of hope.

History repeats itself, so is it feasible for us to believe that we and future generations will be able to avoid the mistakes made in the past and the mistakes we are making now? As history rewrites itself, each period provides its own new horrors. “…isms” are proliferating at an ever increasing speed but there are two disturbing “..isms” that were not nearly so prevalent in the past as they have become in very recent decades; I-ism and ageism. The former, describes a society where the self, ego, the “I” stand at the centre of individual perception of the world. The latter ageism, although not a recent phenomenon, has gained footage and visibility over the last few decades.

In this paper, I want to draw attention to the insidiousness of ageism on the one hand and the irretrievable future that confronts the over 65s and groups within the euphemistically named “golden generations”. Society today, for the bulk of the elderly and ageing is indeed bleak and they will be one of the first to suffer in the anthropogenic breakdown of our societies.

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IAFOR Documentary Photography Award & Interview
IAFOR Documentary Photography Award Screening & Interview: Ezra Acayan, Donald E. Hall

Ezra Acayan, Documentary Photographer, Philippines
Donald E. Hall, University of Rochester, United States

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.

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.

Now in its fifth year, the award has already been widely recognised by those in the industry and has been supported by World Press Photo, British Journal of Photography, Metro Imaging, MediaStorm, Think Tank Photo, University of the Arts London, RMIT University, The Centre for Documentary Practice, and the Medill School of Journalism.

This session will include a screening of the most recent (2018) award winners selection, and will be followed by a discussion on the importance and relevance of documentary photography and photojournalism with the 2018 Grand Prize Winner, Ezra Acayan, an internationally published, award-winning photojournalist from the Philippines; and Professor Donald E. Hall, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester, USA.

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