Women in Asia Conference 2019

Women in an Era of Anti-Elitism: Responding to the Challenge of Rising Populism and its Threat to Gender Inclusivity

Dates: 21 June to 23 June 2019
Location: UNSW Sydney, Kensington

There is a significant populist trend in which ‘elites’ are increasingly seen as being ‘out of touch’ with ‘ordinary people’. This is manifest across the globe but includes Asia. WIAC2019 considers the role and position of women in Asia in an era of anti-elitism. A range of pressing social, economic and legal challenges face the nation-state and regional stability due to rising populism in Asia. 

WIAC 2019 seeks to:

  • generate new knowledge about the impact of changing gender norms in the context of growing support for anti-elite, conservative and fundamentalist movements. 
  • adopt an interdisciplinary, comparative and gendered approach. 
  • consider how changing gender norms intersect with populism’s appeal in Asia.
  • explore the ways that perceived threats to traditional norms of men and women’s roles and diverse expressions of gender and sexuality are fundamental to the rise in Asian populism.

For example:

  • The rise of female education and protective quotas has expanded women’s roles in politics, the medical and legal professions and businesses and unsettled the normative gender divide of domestic sphere (female) vs public sphere (male). 
  • New technologies of communication and media challenge traditional gendered power norms.
  • As women’s economic, political, technical and social power increases, men sometimes perceive themselves to be the losers of a zero-sum game.

Populism is gendered and Asia offers excellent opportunities for exploring cross-cultural, cross-religious, trans-historical evidence on this rising global phenomenon.

What is the Women in Asia Conference?

The Women in Asia Conference is affiliated with the Women’s Forum of the Asian Studies Association of Australia. WIAC2019 is the 12th Women in Asia Conference. It is being held at UNSW and supported by UNSW’s Institute for Global Development.

UNSW Conference Organisers

Dr Melissa Crouch (Law School, UNSW)
Scientia Professor Louise Edwards (Humanities and Languages, UNSW)
Dr Tanya Jakimow (School of Social Sciences, UNSW)
Dr Felix Tan (Business School, UNSW)
Dr Carmen Leong (Business School, UNSW)
Dr Minako Sakai (School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra)


WIAC2019 is titled, 'Women in an Era of Anti-Elitism: Responding to the Challenge of Rising Populism and its Threat to Gender Inclusivity'.

In addition to accepting panel proposals, the 2019 Women in Asia Conference will host panels around a series of key themes. A select number of papers will be considered for publications arising from these themes, such as for the Routledge Women in Asia series: 

Stream 1: Gendered processes of generation, accumulation and appropriation of political power, Stream leader: Tanya Jakimow

This theme explores the gendered processes of political power, examining the ways it is generated, reproduced and challenged. We especially invite papers that approach political power as a resource or form of capital that can be accumulated and appropriated through the (gendered) relations between political actors. In particular, we wish to explore the different ways that women generate political power—for example through emotional labour or acts of piety—and how this power contributes to achievement of broader political objectives: their own, and those of other actors. The theme is exploratory, raising new questions such as: What are the processes through which female political power is appropriated by male political actors or larger party machinery? What are the returns on women’s political labour, and how does this differ to the returns for men? How do/can women generate collective political power that challenges patriarchal relations? How do women’s strategies to generate political power contribute to populist politics, and potentially the (inadvertent) harming of women’s interests?

Stream 2: Women in Law in Asia: Navigating the Legal Profession and the Judiciary in an Era of Anti-Elitism, Stream leader: Melissa Crouch

Across Asia, the legal profession and the judiciary have undergone major changes since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. This includes changes in the structure and size of courts, judicial reform and changes in legal practice. Yet little scholarly attention has been paid to the role of women in the legal profession and the judiciary in Asia. This stream will consider the sociological and political dimensions of the role of women in the legal profession in Asia in an era of anti-elitism. 
Asia presents a new comparative context within which to explore the position and influence of women in the legal profession, and the ongoing barriers and limitations to women’s participation in the profession. Likewise, women in the judiciary in Asia are understudied. While there is renewed scholarly attention to the feminization of the judiciary , little consideration has been given to trends in Asia. Existing research suggests that new lines of inquiry and modes of analysis are required, particularly for legal traditions (such as civil law or plural legal systems) that do not fit within the existing scholarship on women in common law and/or liberal jurisdictions. This stream will focus on the mobility of women in the legal profession, the extent to which issues of gender inequality are being addressed among lawyers and judges, and what is distinctive about professional identity formation for women in law in Asia.

Stream 3: The Role of Technology in Populism and Gender Inclusion, Stream leaders: Felix Tan and Carmen Leong

Recent technological advancements fostering new collaborations and social networking have delivered both positive community development outcomes and evoked new challenges to societal norms across Asia. This stream aims to provide an open and constructive discussion forum of the role of technology to foster fair and reasonable opportunities for participation in economic activities, for decision-making and to influence policies across Asia. This includes: how technology is used to foster the open exchange of ideas and the freedom of expression, enabling and promoting participation in the economic activities and decision-making without distinction based on gender differences? how individuals and organizations are using technology to achieve gender balance and cultural change in certain industries? How governments and NGOs recognize the capability of technologies in order to respond to challenges of inclusivity ? How technology challenges traditional gendered power norms? We encourage submissions from researchers representing all ontological perspectives and we welcome qualitative, mixed methods, conceptual works and papers that examine the above topics.

Stream 4: Gendering populism in Asia, Stream leader: Louise Edwards

Campaigns against elites often invoke conservative, patriarchal gender norms in which feminism and women’s rights are marked as dangerous, foreign cultural influences. Nationalism and fundamentalism often combine with misogyny and intolerance towards gender diversity and LBGTI peoples. How are these trends manifest across Asia? What forms of resistance are emerging? Are their historical precedents from national independence movements? How are women being invoked as symbols of virtue/pride in nations and communities as ‘traditional’ values resurge? Does gendered populism operate differently in non-democratic or semi-democratic nations than it does in multi-party democracies? The stream seeks to explore how women and LBGTI communities are faring in the era of rising populism. It also seeks to invite consideration of how we can gender existing theories of populism and make them meaningful to research and activism in diverse Asian contexts.

Key dates

Please note that the dates of the conference have had to change due to an unexpected clash. The final dates are 22-23 June 2019, with an early career workshop on the afternoon of 21 June. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Final submission date for abstracts and panel proposals: 15 November 2018

Early Bird Registration: December 2018 to 21 February 2019

Final Registration closes: 20 April 2019

Early Career Workshop (optional): 1-5pm, 21st June 2019

Conference Day 1: 22nd June 2019

Conference Dinner (optional): 22nd June 2019

Conference Day 2: 23rd June 2019

Panel and Paper Submissions

Submissions for panels and papers have now closed.

If you have submitted a panel or paper, the conference committee will aim to notify those who have submitted in early December.


Registration will open shortly. Please check this website regularly for further updates.

More Information

Accommodation and Attendee Guide

The attendee guide is available here.

The conference is scheduled for a weekend during UNSW term time. Please note that student accommodation is unlikely to be available during this time. Please refer to the information on options for accommodation. We strongly suggest that you book your accommodation early.

Contact the Organisers

This page will be updated regularly during registration and programme development. Please check back for further updates.

If you have a question for the organisers, or are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact [email protected].