University of California, Davis    

April 27th– 28th 2018

The emergence of Indian Ocean studies as a critical interdisciplinary field in the last decade has offered thoughtful approaches for dismantling boundaries between specific area studies as well as a way of thinking about globality, relationality, and transregional movements. Over the last two years, the Mellon Research Initiative Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds at the University of California, Davis, co-directed by Smriti Srinivas (Professor of Anthropology) and Bettina Ng’weno (Associate Professor of African American and African Studies), and in association with Neelima Jeychandran (Visiting Assistant Professor) has brought together scholars to challenge and critically think about place-making, quotidian practices, and networks in the contemporary Indian Ocean. Places have included diverse sites such as interior cities, coastal landscapes, memoryscapes, sacred topographies, heritage sites, mining villages, riverscapes, gardens and utopian settlements. Practices have included those that coalesce in the built terrain as religious edifices or domestic abodes, medicines, music, techniques of the body, performative practices, mnemonic practices, techniques of craft and religious selfhood. Networks have encompassed cultural and commercial nodes of power, nexus of middlemen or intermediaries, non-humans, and circuits of immateriality, affect, and memory. This emphasis on contemporary places, networks, and practices has enabled a wider vision of what constitutes Indian Ocean worlds including and beyond the space of port cities, coastlines, and islands and allowed explorations of new methodologies in addition to historical archives or texts. Through these areas of inquiry, we have asked: What do these sources give us? What are the new limits of the Indian Ocean? What relationalities are possible across Indian Ocean worlds? What cultural value does this space of study have beyond issues of defense, violence, security, or trade? How do contemporary Indian Ocean worlds involve layered mappings that are yoked to several renderings of the past, present, and possible future?

Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds will convene an intimate and intense workshop of select scholars to further this discussion in April 2018.  In the workshop, we seek to continue the conversations produced by these questions that sought to reconfigure the Indian Ocean as a space for theoretical relationality bringing the studies of Asia and Africa together in contemporary times. Our goal is a cohesive publication that lays the foundation and approaches for a compelling reimagining of Indian Ocean worlds.