Crossing Seas of Ancient Connectivity: Disability Diffusion, Diversity and Development

A/Prof. Karen Soldatic1, Dr Alex Gartrell2, Dr Niro  Kandasamy3, Mr Slamet Thohari4

1Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia, 2Independent, Melbourne, Australia, 3University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 4Universitas Brawijaya, Malang, Indonesia

Chair: A/Prof. Karen Soldatic


Cultural diffusion across ancient routes of trade and connectivity are rarely revisited to examine the ways inter-connected maritime histories remain influential in the socio-political imaginary of bodies and socio-cultural practices of embodiment. Socio-cultural interpretation within the western academy usually situates bodies and socio-cultural practices of embodiment to sites of European colonisation where nuance is often located within discrete sites of European empire and imperalism. European empire, imperialism and colonisation marks Cambodia as part of French Indochina, Indonesia as largely a colony of the Dutch, and Sri Lanka as the spice colony of the British empire, once known as Ceylon. Yet, as this panel illustrates, future imaginaries across these three diverse, yet acutely inter-connected Asian nations suggests that ancient imaginaries of socio-cultural diffusion may play a more critical role in the representation of disability within the contemporary era. Through critically engaged work, we examine the interconnectivity of Asian representations of disability embodiment across three geographical locations – Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka – that illustrate the significance of ancient maritime journeys of the diffusion of disability socio-cultural representations. The final discussion of the panel will draw out how these ancient maritime navigations critically situate and guide impending disability representations across futuristic moments of belonging, inclusion and transnational solidarity.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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