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Indian Ocean Histories

The panel seeks to critically engage in the histories of the Indian Ocean, to create an understanding of not only cultures, peoples, and economies but also how we write histories that are less Eurocentric and indigenous to this region.

id: ehrh7

Convenors:

· Kalpana Hiralal University of KwaZulu-Natl (Durban, South Africa)
· Crispin Bates University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
· Dr Annie Devenish University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

Long Abstract

The Indian Ocean region has, up until recently, been one of the lesser known areas of analytical studies by historians and scholars. Yet as the world’s oldest long distance transoceanic trading area, this region has been a center of human interactions for several millennia. The monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean shaped the economies of the region, creating a vast network of trade between Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia, well before the advent of Marco Polo. Luxury goods, and commodities traversed from China, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The development of the `Islamic sea’, the emergence of the Swahili civilization and later the impact of colonial rule were to shape and define the history and geographical boundaries of the Indian Ocean region. A marked feature was the movement of peoples, particularly free and unfree labor and its impact on the region and societies. These labor movements gave rise to new diasporic communities, identities, economies and in the process created an interconnected ocean space. Themes for exploration in this panel include; trans-oceanic public spheres, political imaginaries, transnational memory, issues of historiography, sources and histories of this region. How does our understanding of Indian Ocean histories provide new perspectives of the ancient world, maritime trade, migrations, colonialism, and forms of belonging and identity preceding the nation state? Could oceanic biographies or the turn to material artifacts offer a new and relevant frameworks for approaching such histories? What comparison can we draw with the histories of the Atlantic world?

Presentations