The Indian Ocean region has historically been a cradle of civilization, supporting seafaring and trade as well as flows of culture, language, and religion. Today, the coastline of the Indian Ocean is home to hundreds of millions of people. In the nineteenth century, tens of millions of people left India, Africa, and China to resettle throughout the European empires after the formal abolition of slavery. Their histories have not been written or shared extensively, and this conference will examine and discuss the experiences, languages, customs, culture, and identities of those who embarked on these journeys.
The Indian Ocean connects the African and South Asian continents, as well as the Malay peninsula and Indonesian archipelago to Australia. Encompassing vast multiplicities of language and culture, the region has nonetheless been linguistically, religiously, and culturally united by what Sheldon Pollak has termed “the Sanskrit cosmopolis,” as well as by multiple other transnational forces such as seafaring trade, the faiths of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism, sciences, and a variety of cultural migrations and flows. This conference will examine the simultaneous embrace and rejection of collective national history and identity in an era when nations were not yet formed.
This event is supported by a Georgetown University India Initiative seed grant, and is hosted by the Department of English, the Program on Justice and Peace, and the Office of Global Engagement.