Sussex Asia Centre


Sussex Asia Centre was launched in 2015. Yet, in fact, the centre builds on Sussex’s long-standing tradition of area studies expertise, most famously associated with the work of AFRAS (the School of African and Asian Studies).

AFRAS acted as a formidable hub for scholarship and teaching on African and Asian scholarship from 1964. Its scholarship was inspirational - bringing a critical, postcolonial and creative edge to ‘area studies’, many years before these concerns became the bread and butter of regional scholarship. Past members of AFRAS included the postcolonial theorist Homi Bhaba, not to mention leading historians and anthropologists of South Asia, such as David Pocock. By promoting the understanding of Asia as a connected, networked and dynamic world region, the Sussex Asia Centre builds on and extends in new directions the dynamic legacy of AFRAS.

Our emphasis on inter-Asian connections, networks, and circulations means that we address some of the most pressing issues facing Asian states and societies today. From religious radicalism, and the consequences for community life of mega-infrastructural projects, to the effects of environmental change on livelihoods, networks that criss-cross national boundaries are today at the forefront of the thinking of policy makers. We pursue a critical approach to these dynamics. Our aim is to always go beyond tired formulas that simplistically subsume informal and transnational networks to the forces of insecurity and criminality. Building on in-depth historical and fieldwork-based research, we bring creative yet grounded insights to discussions about such global issues. In India, Centre members are thinking about the role that technology can play in safeguarding the lives of fishermen in the Indian Ocean. In Afghanistan, we are working with partner institutions in Kabul and provincial cities to explore the diplomatic roles that the country’s far-flung trading networks can play. We’ve recently been invited to contribute to a discussion convened by the Eurasian Council of Foreign Affairs concerning the development of a new strategy for Central Asia by the EU.   

The Asia Centre enjoys excellent connections to media, government, and business within and beyond Asia: our research is regularly featured in leading newspapers and journals. We regard the provision of accessible yet nuanced information about Asia as being central to our mission.  We communicate our research and ideas through lively and high-profile commentary on current affairs, regular blog posts, and frequent events and lectures held at Sussex, in Asia, and in the world beyond.

 A selection of publications by Afras