January 2023

6:00 PM IST

Online Via Zoom


Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House

Indian Ocean and Beyond: Outward Bound from Gujarat

Isabel Hofmeyr

Professor Emeritus
University of the Witwatersrand

This talk will discuss Isabel Hofmeyr's recent book Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House, drawing out its main themes and concerns.  She will also talk about a new project entitled "Elemental Reading". Dockside Reading traces the relationships among print culture, colonialism, and the ocean through the institution of the British colonial Custom House. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dockside customs officials would leaf through publications looking for obscenity, politically objectionable materials, or reprints of British copyrighted works, often dumping these condemned goods into the water. These practices, echoing other colonial imaginaries of the ocean as a space for erasing incriminating evidence of the violence of empire, informed later censorship regimes under apartheid in South Africa. By tracking printed matter from ship to shore, Hofmeyr shows how literary institutions like copyright and censorship were shaped by colonial control of coastal waters. Set in the environmental context of the colonial port city, Dockside Reading explores how imperialism colonizes water. Hofmeyr examines this theme through the concept of hydrocolonialism, which puts together land and sea, empire and environment.

Online Via Zoom
Meeting ID: 978 9960 1062
Passcode: 532629


Isabel Hofmeyr

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand and was Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University from 2013 to 2022. A scholar of book history and print culture, she has also worked extensively on the Indian Ocean world and oceanic themes more generally. Recent publications include a special issue of Comparative Literature (2016) on 'Oceanic Routes' co-edited with Kerry Bystrom and Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House (2022). She co-directs the project “Oceanic Humanities for the Global South” with partners from Mozambique, India, Jamaica and Barbados.