Indian Ocean and Beyond: Outward Bound from Gujarat

Image by courtesy of Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, 'Ark', from 'Kaavad - Home' (2011).

Looking at the oceans as continuous allows us to think beyond the idea of the discrete spaces of Asia, Africa, and Europe. What might it mean to move beyond histories of the nation-state spatially and temporally and beyond the limited chronologies of colonialism, nationalism, and modernity? As social scientists, we tend to work with a terrestrial imagination, leaving the ocean on the margins of our research. We need a notion of spacetime dictated by movements across the ocean, as Braudel foundationally proposed, and historians like Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Engseng Ho have emphasized more recently. 

Adopting a maritime vision would require us to engage with the persistent movement of people, goods, and ideas across the ocean which has always exceeded the remit of states and empires. We would need to think of the oceans as connecting territories and people rather than dividing them. Looking outwards from Gujarat into the oceans from the early modern period onwards, we can see a concatenation of geographies that stretch to Africa and even as far as the South American continent. While locating Gujarat empirically on a map is not difficult, its fluid location intersecting with multiple networks of religion, trade, and intellectual and cultural exchange across the oceans, allows us to think the idea of the region in more contingent and expansive ways.

Drawing on the exciting new work by historians, anthropologists, art historians, legal scholars and social theorists, we propose a webinar series that will cover topics such as the relationship between law, subjecthood, and the ocean; sea trade and politics in the age of empire; Sufism, historical memory, and regional identity; shipbuilding, migration, and religious affiliation; sea piracy and regimes of protection; language, culture and trade routes.

Coordinated by Tejaswini Niranjana, Ahmedabad University, and Dilip Menon, University of Witwatersrand. Hosted by the Centre for Inter-Asian Research, Ahmedabad University, and the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand. 


July 29, 2022: Renisa Mawani, University of British Columbia
August 26, 2022: Jyoti Gulati Balachandran, Penn State College of Liberal Arts
September 30, 2022: Jatin Dua, University of Michigan
October 28, 2022: Fahad Bishara, University of Virginia
November 25, 2022: Edward Simpson, SOAS, and CAMP Mumbai
December – Winter Break
January 27, 2023: Isabel Hofmeyr, University of Witwatersrand
February 24, 2023: Samira Sheikh, Vanderbilt University
March 31, 2023: Nidhi Mahajan, University of California at Santa Cruz
April 28, 2023: Mahmood Kooria, Leiden University
May 26, 2023: Ketaki Pant, University of Southern California