Indian Ocean Connections

Episode 318

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Long before European contact with the Americas forged transoceanic networks and connections in the Atlantic and Pacific, the Indian Ocean served as a maritime space that connected the many states, economies, and communities of its vast basin stretching from East Africa to Southeast Asia. In this multi-part episode, we follow this maritime space into the modern period, exploring the endurance of Indian Ocean connections. We discuss how commerce and politics fueled the expansion of the Ottoman diplomatic presence in South Asia, and we consider how lingering connections between East Africa and the Indian Ocean world forged by dhow traffic reveal both continuities and transformations in the history of economy, mobility, and empire along the coasts today.

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Contributor Bios

Nidhi Mahajan is a Mellon Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Humanities at Tufts University. Her book project titled "Moorings: The Dhow Trade and the State in East Africa" is a historical ethnography of the dhow trade and multiple regulatory regimes in the Western Indian Ocean.
Jeffery Dyer is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Boston College. He is completing a dissertation on Ottoman engagement with the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean in the last decades of the empire entitled “Ottomans in the Age of Empire: Ottoman Consular Diplomacy and the Indian Ocean Frontiers of the Arabian Peninsula, 1870-1914.”
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History and is currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, and more specifically on the history of women's health.

Individual Clips

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Episode No. 318
Release Date: 21 June 2017
Recording Locations: Boston College / Harvard University
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: from - Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla
Special thanks to Kara Günes for permission to use the composition "Istanbul", Rajna Swaminathan for "Entangled Hierarchy", and Muhtelif for "Bint El Shalabiya"


"Native sail boats between Bombay and Karachi on Gulf of Kutch," 1895. Source: Library of Congress
"Bombay. Harbour with arriving mail," c1890-1910. Source: Library of Congress
Kachchhi Vahan near Mombasa, Kenya. Photo credit: Nidhi Mahajan, 2011

Select Bibliography

Agius, Dionisius A. Seafaring in the Arabian Gulf and Oman: The People of the Dhow. London: Kegan Paul International, 2005.

_____. In the Wake of the Dhow: The Arabian Gulf and Oman, 2009. Reading: Ithaca Press, 2010.

Aiyar, Sana. 2015. Indians in Kenya: the politics of diaspora.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Alpers, Edward A. 2009. East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers.

Bose, Sugata. A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Chaudhuri, Kirti N. 1985. Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Desai, Gaurav. 2013. Commerce with the universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian imagination. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gelvin, James & Nile Green, Eds. Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

Gilbert, Erik. Dhows & the Colonial Economy of Zanzibar, 1860-1970. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004.

———. 2011. “The Dhow as Cultural Icon: Heritage and Regional Identity in the Western Indian Ocean.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 17 (1): 62–80.

Ho, Engseng. 2006. The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean. The California world history library, 3. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Little, Peter D. 2003. Somalia: economy without state. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Mathew, Johan. 2016. Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism Across the Arabian Sea. Oakland: University of California Press.

McPherson, Kenneth. 1993. The Indian Ocean: a history of people and the sea. New York: Oxford University Press.

Metcalf, Thomas R. 2007. Imperial connections: India in the Indian Ocean arena, 1860-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Özcan, Azmi. Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain, 1877-1924. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Pearson, M. N. 1998. Port cities and intruders: the Swahili Coast, India, and Portugal in the early modern era. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.

———. 2003. The Indian Ocean. London: Routledge.

Prestholdt, Jeremy. 2008. Domesticating the world : African consumerism and the genealogies of globalization. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Salvadori, Cynthia. 1996. We came in dhows. Nairobi, Kenya: Paperchase Kenya Ltd.

Sheriff, Abdul. 2010. Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam. London: Hurst & Co.

Sheriff, Abdul, and Engseng Ho, Editors. 2014. The Indian Ocean. London: C Hurst & Co.

Simpson, Edward. 2006. Muslim Society and Western Indian Ocean: The Seafarers of Kachchh. London: Routledge.

Slight, John. The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865-1956. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Tagliacozzo, Eric. The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.


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