Reimagining citizenship:

An online conference on the politics of citizenship in South Asia

Call for abstracts

The “Reimagining Citizenship” project, based at the University of York, and supported by funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, is co-convening an online conference on the politics of India’s amended citizenship laws along with the South Asia Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association.

Deadline for abstracts: September 3, 2021. Abstract submission link:

Conference date: September 24, 2021. Conference registration form:



In December 2019, the Indian parliament approved an amendment to India’s citizenship laws. Under the provisions of the amendment, justified in the name of helping religious minorities in India’s Muslim-majority neighbours, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Sikhs and Zoroastrians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will find their applications for citizenship fast-tracked. By omitting Muslims, Jews, Bahais and atheists from its purview, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) thus introduces a religious filter that strikes at the heart of the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution. Against such discriminatory laws, India erupted in protests not seen in over four decades. The state’s response was brutal, as violence by police and government-backed vigilantes was unleashed on peaceful and protestors, and protest leaders were arbitrarily detained.

Supporters of the amendment justified it in the name of protecting persecuted religious minorities in India’s Muslim-majority neighbours, even as they remained silent about the broader, and more structural, violence and persecution faced by religious minorities across the region. Prompted by contentions over citizenship within India, this conference aims to explore the ongoing imaginations of citizenship across South Asia.

Conference themes

Contribution to this online conference aim open conversations on the meanings for democratic politics posed by contests over citizenship. Supporters of the amendments argue that the amendments are democratic in so far that they were passed through parliament, where the government and its allies enjoy a majority since Prime Minister Modi’s thumping re-election in May 2019. Critics argue that, under India’s First Past the Post system, a parliamentary majority does not signal a popular majority. Furthermore, the amendments violate constitutional provisions of secularism as well as broad principles of social justice.

Four specific questions frame the contributions to this online conference.

  • What are the implications of the amendment to India’s citizenship laws on the country’s 1.3 billion people? While Muslims suspect they will be wilfully omitted from the register, members of historically oppressed communities such as Dalits and Adivasis (numbering almost 300 million, only slightly less than the entire population of the USA), as well as 100 million-odd migrant workers and poor people fear they will be unable to provide the necessary documentation. How is the amendment likely to exacerbate the perilous situation of Muslims in India? How are different social groups likely to be affected?
  • What are the implications of the protests for democracy in India? The protests have seen Hindus and Muslims unite on the streets in an unprecedented overcoming of religious cleavages. What narratives bind them together and how might these be fragmented? What frames are deployed to organise the protests and what frames might result in their unravelling? What competing repertoires do they draw on? What do these trends foretell for democratic citizenship in India.
  • What are the challenges to citizenship in other South Asian countries? From the Rohingya being denied citizenship in Myanmar under exclusionary citizenship laws, to the status of the million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the discrimination against religious minorities in India’s neighbourhood, questions of citizenship have been regular staples in academic debates about the region, beyond India.
  • How have people in South Asia, beyond India, asserted claims to citizenship despite being subjected to exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination? What narratives and practices have they espoused as they seek to reimagine citizenship in their respective national contexts? How do their struggles shape imaginations of citizenship in the region more broadly?

Abstract submission process & requirements:

Abstracts are invited from interested researchers at any stage of their career, from within and beyond academia, by September 3, 2021.

Please include the following in your application:

  1. Your name and institutional affiliation (leave as “independent” if none);
  2. A 300-word abstract, clearly specifying the research question, the methodology and which of the above four streams your contribution fits; and
  3. A 50-word biography

Submit your abstract here



Dr. Indrajit Roy, University of York, UK.

Dr. Buddhadeb Halder, University of York, UK.

Dr. Filippo Boni, Open University, UK.

Dr. Rudabeh Shahid, Atlantic Council, USA.