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An international workshop on: Depth, Surface and Movement: The Indian Ocean, Environment, History and Human Agency

Conference Note:

Academic scholarship on the Indian Ocean has expanded considerably both in scope and scale as well as in interrogating conventional paradigms about studying the ocean in its geographical, geo-political and demographic diversity. Indian Ocean studies have come a long way ­– from the 1960’s when historians and sociologists plumbed the depths of Indian Ocean archives to excavate the dynamics of Asian commercial and seafaring operations, to the 1990’s, when cultural studies scholars explored Indian Ocean imaginaries through a careful reading of texts and engaged with the peoples of the seas, marginal groups who had escaped the gaze of official and conventional archives.

More recently thanks to initiatives like the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South ( project scholars have brought to the table a series of inter-disciplinary questions that go beyond the surface of the seas that people navigated to explore its depths and track movements between human and nonhuman actors and integrate them to the larger history of environment and climate which in today’s context is more relevant than it ever was. Admittedly histories of the Indian Ocean, old and new have always factored in weather patterns, the monsoon wind system to make sense of its rhythms and cycles that affected mobility and migration flows of all species, but now we have much greater understanding of the world that lies beneath the surface of the ocean.

This workshop aims to encourage conversations on the larger seascape of the Ocean that would help connect pressing issues of global warming, climate stress with issues of livelihood and displacement. It will adopt a historical approach and in the process revisit issues of marginal groups and their strategies, including piracy and predation that very often were responses to social and environmental stress. It also intends to locate Goa’s specific historical experience within the larger historiography of Indian Ocean studies by looking critically at the range of human experiences - largely ocean driven - that shaped its social contours.