Time: 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Location: 126 Voorhies Hall
In his recently published sprawling history of the Bay of Bengal and its crisscrossing circuits of migration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Sunil Amrith mapped wide-ranging social geographies cast across multiple areas that defined an expansive social and commercial arena of spatial plurality and intersection. If this spatial plurality was shaped by the migrations and labour movements of South Asian across the Bay and involved also the well-studied trades in tea, opium and textiles, its contours were influenced in no less important ways by a robust marine products economy underpinned by Chinese, Indian, British and Australian commercial interests. Equally, exchange across the Arabian Sea and more broadly throughout much of the ocean extending into the waters of island Southeast Asia involved the large-scale transportation of marine goods extracted from the coasts and islands of the Indian Ocean. Of the marine products shipped across the ocean, pearls and mother-of-pearl were especially important cargoes involving significant numbers of workers, shippers, merchants, buyers and variegated markets whose logics were defined by differentiated—if not entirely distinctive–consumer tastes. This presentation explores the Indian Ocean’s pearling and pearl fisheries histories through the conceptual prism of connected comparison to uncover the linkages that brought the Red Sea and Gulf, South India and Sri Lanka, the Mergui archipelago, and western and northern Australia and Southeast Asia into relation with one another from the late eighteenth century. Challenging historiography that has emphasized a regional approach to each of these pearl fisheries, resulting in a segmented picture of the history of pearling, the presentation underscores the importance of tracing their connections to better understand that these were not discrete but intersecting trades. This approach in turn represents an attempt to cut across the divide that often This in turn represents an attempt to chart a translocal Indian Ocean history that breaks down the artificial divide in much scholarship between ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ oceanic spheres.
This event is sponsored by the “Reimagining IndianOcean Worlds” Mellon Research Initiative, Middle East/South Asia Studies Program, Department of African American and African Studies, and “South Asia without Borders” Initiative.
For more information please contact: Lori Odenweller, firstname.lastname@example.org