On 8th February Wolfson South Asia Research Cluster (SARC) were delighted to welcome fifty staff from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Home Office to Wolfson for the inaugural Wolfson-FCO South Asia Day.
Our visitors were welcomed to Wolfson by the college president Professor Dame Hermione Lee. Dr Kate Sullivan de Estrada chaired the day’s event and introduced the study day with a reflection on the research and other activities being conducted by the SARC and its many South Asia scholars at Wolfson, and by contextualising the day’s lectures within the contemporary political, economic and international context of the region. The FCO were particularly keen to reflect on how history has an enduring influence on contemporary South Asia. To this end we had three presentations, from Dr Indrajit Roy on politics, Professor Matthew McCartney on economics, and Dr George Kunnath on anthropology. The three presentations from three different academic disciplines contradicted, complemented, developed upon and critiqued one another to stimulating effect and each drew varying lessons from the historical past to help shape our understanding of contemporary South Asian realities. Professor David Gellner delivered a closing keynote address that engaged with key aspects of South Asian society to conclude the day’s events.
During the reception after the formal sessions, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Director, South Asia and Afghanistan at the FCO, Owen Jenkins, thanked the organisers and expressed his hope that the event marked the beginning of a series of interactions between the FCO and Wolfson/The School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS).
There was ample time for questions and discussion at the end of each presentation, over the various coffee breaks and during the splendid lunch in Wolfson College. A big thanks to all the presenters, to Louise Gordon for managing the conference booking and organisation, to Rosie Tapper for the original idea, to Owen Jenkins for leading the visiting delegation and to Simon Johnson for co-ordinating organisation from the FCO.
The Wolfson SARC had a great day and enjoyed the insights from and interactions with policy practitioners and we hope this will be the first of many such occasions between Wolfson and the FCO.