Call for paper: Asia’s Civil Spheres: New Media, Urban Public Space, Social Movements

Jointly organized by Asia Research Institute, Office of Deputy President (Research & Technology) and Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Cities Cluster, National University of Singapore.

Urban Asia buzzes with vibrant new media cultures. In a world in which virtual and physical space have become interdependent dimensions of political consciousness and activity, media-savvy civil society activists have come to play crucial roles in advancing state and corporate accountability and transparency as well as the rule of law. In the Philippines, in Indonesia, in China, and, more recently, in the Middle East, virtual discourse has proven its potential to channel anger into action and to evoke explosive social mobilizations in physical space that alter societal structures from below. At the frontiers of new media-augmented urbanity, ever-new forms of (cyber-) urban public spaces emerge, imbued with potential for individual and collective civic renewal and solidaristic action. The dialectical relationship between cyber and urban space becomes increasingly significant for urban cultural politics and place-making processes that have historically functioned as conduit for social movements and political transformation.

This workshop aims to revisit the ever-shifting spatialities and connections between political participation and social change in urban Asia and to explore re-imaginings of what ‘political action’, ‘public space’, ‘place-making’, and ‘social movements’ mean in our globally networked societies. The workshop brings together young scholars and leading experts working on empirical urban realities, in different cultural and national contexts, to discuss how political transformation is initiated, negotiated, and resisted, in order to advance our understanding of the challenges that precede and follow highly visible insurgencies and the ways in which new media are deployed by various actors to either strengthen or stifle these processes. We invite submission of papers pertaining to cutting edge research at the nexus of new media, social activism and movements, and public space.

Central questions include (but are not limited to):

– How do activisms and public space (online and offline) shape each other in diverse urban settings in Asia?

– How do shared meanings and social actions evolve, both independent of and in interaction with state and corporate actors?

– How do new forms of cyber-urban institutions and networks emerge, and how do these alter the meanings of urban spaces?

– To what extent do these institutions and social movements have the substance and impetus to sustain broader societal change?

– How can organically grown aspirations, initiatives, movements, and institutions inform and influence urban planning, policy, laws, and governance?

– How do the contested dialectics of cyburbanity create Asia’s civil (and uncivil) spheres?


We invite paper proposals which should include a title, an abstract of 300 words, and a short biographical sketch of 150 words. Please submit your proposal to Sharon Ong at using the Paper Proposal Submission Form  by 1 June 2011. Successful applicants will be notified by 1 July 2011 and will be required to send in a completed paper (5,000 to 8,000 words) based on unpublished material by 20 August 2011. Selected papers will be developed and included in a monograph or special journal issue. Details upon request.

Participants are encouraged to seek funding for travel from their home institutions. Based on the quality of proposals and the availability of funds, partial or full funding is available for successful applicants. Full funding would cover air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the conference. Priority will be given to participants that are based in developing parts of Asia.


Workshop Convenors

Dr Peter MAROLT (
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore


Miss Sharon ONG
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
#10-01 Tower Block, 469A Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 8784
Fax: (65) 6779 1428
Contact Person:     Ms ONG Sharon
Related Files:     Paper Proposal Submission Form