Program

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DAY ONE - SATURDAY 02 MAY 2015
10:30 AM – 10:50 AM — OPENING SESSION

Welcome Address: Imran Rahman, Vice-Chancellor, ULAB
Editor’s Note: Khademul Islam, Editor, Bengal Lights

10:50 AM – 11:30 AM — KEYNOTE SPEECH

Introduction: Chris Heiser
Keynote: William Vollmann

11:30 AM – 11:45 AM — TEA BREAK
11:45 AM – 12:00 PM — RECITATION: Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel and David Shook
12:00 PM – 01:15 PM — PANEL 1 – REPORTING AGAINST REASON

Moderator:

  • Zafar Sobhan

Discussants:

  • Femke van Zeijl
  • Saba Imtiaz

Panel Details: Much reporting focuses on conflict, especially relating to terrorist and extremist violence. Recently, Islamist movements – the Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIL – have captured world headlines. But there have been many other groups around the world –the German Red Army Faction, the Irish Republican Army, the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, the Basque ETA, and the LTTE in Sri Lanka – all with different goals, but similar approaches. And similar complexities in reporting.

What are the unique issues related to reporting on violent movements that seem, from the point of view of mainstream liberalism, to be without reason? That is, how can you report on something that you cannot reason with? Journalists court risks that many would consider extreme in order to report from conflict zones. What makes them take this kind of risk? What is it like to report from the edge – of safety, of reason?

01:15 PM – 02:15 PM — LUNCH BREAK
02:30 PM – 03:45 PM — PANEL 2 – ENDLESS INSURGENCY I: THE WORLD

Moderator:

  • K. Anis Ahmed

Discussants:

  • Meike Ziervogel
  • Sudeep Chakravarti
  • William Vollmann

Panel Details: Throughout history, power has always been contested. Every empire or petty kingdom was fraught with battles as new powers rose up from within or an outside force breached its territories. Only as recently as the end of the 17th century has the world established the principle of settled nation-states. But in reality, every modern state has been besieged with insurgencies: religious, ideological, political, ethnic and territorial. Nor are all insurgencies violent; one could say the US’s Tea Party movement is a kind of insurgency of its own.

Insurgencies tear at the very foundations of the republic as it is and as it has evolved. So then, why are insurgencies so persistent? Why are they so attractive? Often couched in the West in sociological or psychological terms like disenfranchisement, is it actually something more fundamental, like the Nietzschean “will to power”? Is there a fundamental need to agitate, especially for those who cannot avail mainstream circuits of power? This panel offers a broad view of world history and politics and provides deep context to the conclave.

03:45 PM – 04:00 PM — RECITATION: Sadaf Saaz
04:00 PM – 04:15 PM — TEA BREAK
04:15 PM – 05:30 PM — PANEL 3 – WRITING: UNDER SIEGE

Moderator:

  • Githa Hariharan

Discussants:

  • Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel
  • Sudeep Chakravarti

Panel Details: Freedom of thought and expression is under threat throughout the world. There are many writers – like Liu Xiaobo, held captive by the Chinese government – who are writing under siege conditions. Many others are in exile. What is it like to be a writer in siege conditions? How does the condition affect the writing, the writer and the reception? The siege a writer might be under may not necessarily reflect the prevailing political situation of his state. It may even be something personal, psychological. If so, are all writers always under siege?

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DAY TWO - SUNDAY 03 MAY 2015
10:30 AM – 11:45 AM — PANEL 4 – FICTIONS OF EMPIRE

Moderator:

  • Ahsan Akbar

Discussants:

  • A. Igoni Barrett
  • Khademul Islam
  • Meike Ziervogel
  • William Vollmann

Panel Details: Empires have reality – of brute power, of territories, of subjects under unequal law – but they also have an element of fiction to them. It takes enormous deception and self-deception to exist as an empire. The stories told about national origins, character, and religion are propagated to support it. In response, opposing fictions are generated, from an insurgent perspective. There are critiques from the inside as well.

In the present world context, empires do not exist in the same way as in the past. Capital transcends and endangers even the once-imperial centers. What is the role of fiction vis-à-vis this architecture of power that transcends borders, that takes the form primarily of capital and subjugation under capital? What in writing can articulate these complex trends and how can it transcend mere reportage?

11:45 AM – 12:00 PM — TEA BREAK
12:00 PM – 12:20 PM — FILM: Undercover in Equatorial Guinea
12:25 PM – 01:15 PM — IN CONVERSATION: THE POETICS OF RESISTANCE

Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel with David Shook

01:15 PM – 02:15 PM — LUNCH BREAK
02:30 PM – 03:45 PM — PANEL 5 – ENDLESS INSURGENCY II: BANGLADESH

Moderator:

  • Sudeep Chakravarti

Discussants:

  • Kazi Nabil Ahmed
  • Salimullah Khan
  • Syed Manzoorul Islam

Panel Details: Bangladesh is a peculiar country. Typically nation-states are imperiled by those who are opposed to it. In Bangladesh, anti-liberation forces have staged a political comeback over the decades. But oddly, even those who should be its proper representatives, who hold the core values of the state, find themselves without a legitimate platform within the country. Rather, these would-be allies are pushed by an entrenched political system into the role of insurgents, finding their only voice through street agitation – e.g. the Shahbag movement.

What, then, is the morphology of the imperiled state, when the state itself is insurgent? How can it define itself when its values – the ones that were fought for in 1971 – are still an on-going battle?

03:45 PM – 04:00 PM — RECITATION: Ahsan Akbar
04:00 PM – 04:15 PM — TEA BREAK
04:15 PM – 05:00 PM — IN CONVERSATION: FLIGHTS OF FICTION

Githa Hariharan with Saba Imtiaz

05:05 PM – 06:20 PM — PANEL 6 – FICTION AS REPORTAGE

Moderator:

  • Chris Heiser

Discussants:

  • Femke van Zeijl
  • Githa Hariharan
  • Meike Ziervogel

Panel Details: How much of fiction remains bound up with reportage? For example, the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez are most often discussed in terms magical realism, yet a significant amount of it is informed by reportage. What does fiction enable one to do that reportage cannot? Are writers who want to reveal truths bound to write about how the world is? Or by exploring topographies of the world that did not exist before, can they uncover new aspects of the world, or even new terrains of the self?

06:20 PM – 06:30 PM — CLOSING

Closing Words: Kaiser Haq, Director, Dhaka Translation Center

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