Shifting the geographies of knowledge: the unfinished project of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies
In March 2009 I was invited to give a lecture on the cultural diversity in Asia for an International Forum of Universities held in Rome, Italy. Before the forum started, all foreign scholars, mostly university professors from various countries, were invited to a meeting at the office of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to be seated according to different regions along the four sides of huge rectangular table: Asia, Africa, America (North and South), and the Middle East. To my surprise, I found that my colleagues from India and Pakistan were split into different places, India together with other Asian delegates, and Pakistan along with the Middle Eastern delegates. There was no explanation for such extraordinary rearrangement of the globe, which was immortalized in the printed brochure of the meeting. The reason for the confusion could only be surmised: a political mapping, which was informed by a vision of the Middle East as the place of the Islamic Others. The Orientalist atmosphere of the forum and the heated resistance of the ‘third world’ participants stayed long with me and filled my thoughts as I reflected on the 10th year journey of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (IACS) journal.
Melani Budianta is professor of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia.