January 2024

6:00 PM (IST)

Online via Zoom


In Pursuit of Royal Blue: Geographies of Relatedness in the Indian Ocean

South Asia in the South China Sea
Ping-hsiu Alice Lin

Ping-hsiu Alice Lin

Sociocultural Anthropologist
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Anthropology
Harvard University

In two coastal towns across Sri Lanka and Thailand, Beruwala and Chanthaburi, traders from across the world congregate to engage in the daily chatter and risky pursuit of sapphire. Sapphires come from a wide range of deposits and localities the world over, as multinational as the dealers who visit the markets in pursuit of profit. Focusing on the ties between Pakistani, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Chinese dealers of precious stones, I show ethnographically how the nexus of kinship, materiality, and commerce propels networks of trade to new geographies of relatedness beyond national, religious, and ethnic bounds in ways that build on and depart from earlier oceanic histories. Undergirding the trade of gems are also legal regimes and geopolitical strife in South Asia that both halt and facilitate the flows of commodity and capital. My broader research brings attention to the importance of networks produced through the commerce of precious commodities in mediating Pakistan’s connection with other parts of Asia over the twentieth century.

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Ping-hsiu Alice Lin

Ping-hsiu Alice Lin is a sociocultural anthropologist with interests in commodity chains, political economy, and geosciences in South and Southeast Asia. Her research focuses on movement, labor, and associated practices that transform rough minerals into precious stones in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands, showing how ideas related to the value of minerals circulate across global trade hubs in Asia. She completed her PhD at the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2021 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.