On 31 March this year our Marie Cure Actions/IRSES funding from the European Union came to an end. We can look back on a very successful first four years. Thanks to EU research mobility support, 146 scholars and practitioners were able to carry out 206 research exchanges and 590 months’ worth of secondments at 12 different UKNA partner institutes. In the end, the number of secondment months surpassed even the target set in the original proposal. These secondments have succeeded in bringing the network partners closer together, around collaborative research initiatives, roundtable and seminar activities on a variety of urban topics in East and South Asia, with comparative cases from European cities. Without your support, we could not have achieved this great success!
Even though the IRSES research exchange funding has now ended, the UKNA network will continue. The number of institutional partners in the network continues to grow, as does the number of institutions (both academic and non-academic) and scholars who seek to collaborate with UKNA. Our ambition is to be an inclusive network that brings together concerned scholars and practitioners engaged in collaborative research on cities in Asia. Our network seeks to influence policy by contributing insights that put people at the center of urban governance and development strategies, with “human flourishing in Asian cities” as our vision.
In April of this year a consortium consisting of the Development Planning Unit (DPU)/University College London, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville (ENSAPB), and IIAS/University of Leiden submitted another proposal to the RISE scheme of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program for a second phase of UKNA. The proposal includes 10 new academic institutions and non-governmental organizations from Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines). The proposal comprises three projects and one cross-cutting initiative, organized around innovative and highly current research subjects across the social sciences, humanities and environmental sciences. Current UKNA partners from China, India, Hong Kong and Macau will not be eligible for research exchanges in this proposal, due to EU rules, but—should funding be approved—there will be a separate fund for short research fellowships for interested researchers from existing UKNA partners in these countries and territories. Furthermore, the existing partners will be invited to participate in joint activities under this program. We should hear soon whether this second RISE proposal is successful or not.
IIAS is currently also finalizing another proposal, together with UKNA partners at the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore, ENSAPB, and new partners in the U.S. and Asia. The grant proposal to the Henry Luce Foundation calls for the development of a Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network (SEANNET), which would be a four-year initiative consisting of research, teaching and dissemination of knowledge on Asian cities through the prism of neighborhoods. By means of participative field-research in 6 case study neighborhoods, in situ policy roundtables, academic conferences, publications and other media, SEANNET hopes to generate alternative paradigms on cities and empower a community of early career scholars and practitioners working on Southeast Asia. The final decision on the proposal should be clear by the end of 2016.
Regardless of the outcome of the latest funding proposals, UKNA will continue to organize and support activities that revolve around our objective and vision of “human flourishing” in Asian cities. This includes publications as well as events.
Editors from across the UKNA network are currently busy submitting for peer review three edited volumes for publication in the Asian Cities book series of Amsterdam University Press and IIAS. The three volumes—entitled “Ideas of the City in Asia”; “Cities by and for the People”; and “Future Challenges of Cities in Asia”—contain the work of many researchers who have undertaken secondments through UKNA during the past four years, as well as that of selected external scholars.
This December, UKNA partner Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) and IIAS will jointly organize two exciting events in Delhi on the theme of “Heritage and Infrastructure in the City”. The theme focuses on unpacking the city of Delhi through layers of lived history and heritage; urban infrastructure; ecological landscapes; and architectural histories. The first activity is a roundtable on “Urban Heritage and a Decentralized City Museum” (16-17 December). The second activity is a seminar on “Basic Urban Services in Delhi: Citizens, State/Policy and Politics” (19-20 December). The seminar will be the annual UKNA event for 2016. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Institute of Advanced Study will be the co-host and organizer of the seminar, together with AUD and IIAS/UKNA. In between both activities, there will be a guided excursion to the Delhi neighborhood of Mehrauli, including a visit to its archaeological park and to a new pop-up museum.
You are cordially invited to join both events in December. Partial travel funding is available on a limited basis only, with priority for younger scholars. Please contact the organizers* by 1 September to indicate your interest to participate in the events (roundtable, seminar or both) and, if necessary, to indicate your funding needs (see invitation and preliminary program attached to the email message).
The multi-disciplinary nature of the Delhi event, and the interactive discussion format of both activities, characterizes the approach of UKNA and IIAS towards the study of Asian cities. Moreover, the seminar will be an excellent and fun-filled occasion to reunite with fellow UKNA researchers and colleagues.
For UKNA to continue to flourish in the next few years as a unique vehicle for the study and exchange of viewpoints about Asian urbanization, the network needs your support! We encourage you to propose and help sponsor initiatives—at your own institutions or elsewhere—that would involve the network partners and scholars. We also invite UKNA scholars to submit their short articles, papers or other research to the IIAS Newsletter or (in the case of book proposals) to the Asian Cities book series of Amsterdam University Press and IIAS. We will contact you shortly about your institution’s possible contributions to the network.
We hope to welcome you to Delhi in December!
Coordinator of UKNA
International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS)
Leiden, the Netherlands