Oceanic Circularities: The Indian Ocean in the Modern World

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Over the past five millennia, plants, animals, people, languages, ideas, religions, technologies, and a vast array of raw and manufactured commodities have circulated along the watery highways connecting East Africa with the Persian Gulf, South and Southeast Asia, and China. Yet imperial and national historiographic traditions as much as the presentist bias of the dominant social sciences have, until fairly recently, prevented scholars from exploring the multifaceted connections between distant places and peoples across the Indian Ocean rim. In contrast with scholarship on the North Atlantic and Mediterranean worlds, therefore, the study of Indian Ocean circularities is a relatively new and dynamic field even as it prompts us to rethink global history from an altogether new perspective.

This conference brings together new and established scholars producing cutting-edge research on topics ranging from the political economy of trade to the sociocultural dynamics of interlocking littoral societies across this vast oceanic space.



9:00 am: Dean’s Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:15 am: Keynote Address: Michael Lambek (University of Toronto):
Moral Horizons and Diasporic Return: On the Performance of Weddings in Mayotte (1975-2015)

10:15 - 11:30 am: Panel 1 - Thinking with the Indian Ocean
Chair: Uday Chandra (Georgetown University, Qatar)

Fahad Bishara (University of Virginia): On Mobile Histories: Circulation and Conversion in the Indian Ocean World
Jeremy Prestholdt (University of California, San Diego): The Ends of the Indian Ocean: Notes on Boundaries and Affinities Across Time
Shiza Abbasi and Uday Chandra (Georgetown University, Qatar): Decentering the Indian Ocean: Interstitial Groups and the Margins of Postcolonial Statebuilding

11:30 - 11:45 am: Coffee Break

11:45 am - 1:30 pm: Panel 2 - Literary Aesthetics of Relation and Creolization in the Indian Ocean
Chair: Firat Oruc (Georgetown University, Qatar)

Michelle Decker (Scripps College): “Al-Inkishafi,” Swahili Poetic Form, and the Indian Ocean Imaginary
Emmanuel Bruno Jean-Francois (Pennsylvania State University): Creolized Geographies, Entangled Histories: The Mascarene Region and the Intersecting Stories of the Indian Ocean World
Mervat Hatem (Howard University): Literary Construction of the Indian Ocean for the Reform of Dynastic States/Communities vs. the Colonial Construction of Modern National Communities in `A’isha Taymur’s Work of Fiction
Ananya Jahanara Kabir (King’s College, London): Transoceanic Circularities and Creole Indias: Ari Gautier’s Pondicherry Novels
Neelofer Qadir (University of North Carolina, Greensboro): Spectral Labor

1:30 - 2:30 am: Lunch

2:30 - 4:00 pm: Panel 3 - The Persian Gulf in the Indian Ocean
Chair: Anto Mohsin (Northwestern University, Qatar)

James Onley (Qatar National Library): India and the Gulf: Overview of a 4,600-Year Connection
Lindsey Stephenson (Princeton University): Thinking Between and Beyond “Nodes”: Cross - Gulf Connections from 1870 - 1940
Emilio Ocampo Eibenschutz (Cornell University): Space, Imperialism, and Memorialization: The Political Economy of Slave Markets in the 19th Century Western Indian Ocean
Al-Johara Al Thani (NYU): Racial Identity and Constructs of Blackness in the Early Twentieth Century Gulf

4:00 - 4:15 pm: Coffee Break

4:15 - 5:30 pm:Panel 4 - Soundscapes
Chair: Maurice Jackson (Georgetown University)

Irene Promodh (Georgetown University, Qatar): FM Radio and the Malayali Diaspora in Qatar: At Home Overseas?
Bindu Menon (Azim Premji University): Audible Love: “Dubai Letter” and the Transnational Subjects of Music
Alghaliya Al-Qubaisi (Georgetown University, Qatar): Gender and Music in Zanzibar

5:30 pm: Closing


9:30 - 10:45 am: Panel 5 - Oman and the Swahili Coast
Chair: Rogaia Abusharaf (Georgetown University, Qatar)

Nicholas Roberts (University of Notre Dame): “They never thought a Yankee could do so”: Sayyid Saʿīd and the Anglo-American Rivalry in the Western Indian Ocean, 1800-1856
Nate Matthew (SUNY Binghamton): The Role of Diasporic Political Ideas from Zanzibar in the Omani Renaissance, 1970 - Present
Courtney Freer (LSE): Persistence of the Umma or Vestiges of Empire?: Exploring Pathways of Ibadi Transnationalism from Oman

10:45 - 11:00 am: Coffee Break

11:00 am - 12:15 pm: Panel 6 - East-West Connections
Chair: Hasan Mahmud (Northwestern University, Qatar)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Hideaki Suzuki (National Ethnographic Museum, Osaka): In between Japan and Africa: Or, Indian Ocean world in Japanese Khanga​​​​​​​
Mahmood Kooria (Leiden University): Mobile Kins, Immobile Kinds: A Connected History of Matrilineal Muslims in the Oceanic Littoral​​​​​​​
Esha Sil (University of Helsinki): Towards a Polyvocal Transoceanic Memory: Antony Firingi, Henry Derozio, and Creole Bengal

12:15 - 1:15 pm: Exhibit on Gulf-India Connections (James Onley, Qatar National Library)

1:15 - 2:15 pm: Lunch

2:15 - 3:45 pm: Panel 7 - Slavery and Servitude
Chair: Sumayya Ahmed (UCL, Qatar)

Edward Alpers (UCLA): The Shortest Middle Passage: Maritime East Africa after 1873​​​​​​​
Ananya Chakravarti (Georgetown University): Slavery, Forced Labor and Mobility in the Making of the Konkan Coast​​​​​​​
Karine Walther (Georgetown University, Qatar): “To the Slave in Bondage Bleeding”: The Reformed Church of America and the Freed Slave School in Muscat, Oman, 1896 - 1901
Matthew Hopper (Cal Poly): Liberated Africans in the Indian Ocean World: Liberation, Labor, and Indenture

3:45 pm: Closing


9:30 - 11:00 am: Panel 8 - Inter-Species Circularities
Chair: Amira Sonbol (Georgetown University, Qatar)​​​​​​​

Mapule Mohulatsi (University of the Witwatersrand): Eating the Indian Ocean: Metabolic Intimacies, Fish Diaspora’s and the Deep Ocean
Tamara Fernando (Cambridge University): Of Molluscs and Men: Migrant Pearl Divers in the Indian Ocean 1880 - 1925
Beatrice Nicolini (Catholic University, Milan): The “Kakatua Dancing”: Multiple Presences and Expansions in the Indian Ocean​​​​​​​
Nazry Bahrawi (Singapore Institute of Technology and Design): Beasts of the Indian Ocean: The Arab-Malay poetics of Hikayat Kalilah dan Dimnah

11:00 - 11:15 am: Coffee Break

11:15 am - 12:45 pm: Panel 9 - Moving Images
Chair: Negar Taymoorzadeh (New York University)​​​​​​​

Kaveh Askari (Michigan State University): Was Film Noir Shaped by the Indian Ocean in the 1950s?​​​​​​​
Pamila Gupta (University of the Witwatersrand): Moving Still: Bicycles in Ranchhod Oza’s Photographs of 1950s Stone Town (Zanzibar)
Samhita Sunya (University of Virginia): Changing Winds: Oman TV, Indian (Ocean) Films, and Piracy, 1974-1984
Firat Oruc (Georgetown University, Qatar): On the Shore: Indian Ocean Littoral Life in Film

12:45 - 1:45 pm: Lunch

1:45 - 3:00 pm: Panel 10 - Imperial Cartographies and Meaning-Making
Chair: M. Reza Pirbhai (Georgetown University, Qatar)​​​​​​​

Stéphane Pradines (Aga Khan University, London): Kua, a Swahili city under the Portuguese rule 16th-18th century​​​​​​​
Rishad Choudhury (Oberlin College): Messianic Mobilities? The Meccan Pilgrimage and the “Wahhabi Conspiracy” in Colonial India
Chhaya Goswami (SK Somaiya College): Connecting the Unconnected: Circularities of East African Ivory and Indian capital in the Western Indian Ocean

3:00 - 3:15 pm: Coffee Break

3:15 - 4:00 pm: Closing Plenary Session