Sponsored by the Journal of Southern African Studies and the CHR, UWC, 11-14 September 2014
Convenors: Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, Isabel Hofmeyr & Preben Kaarsholm
What does the burgeoning historiography on the Indian Ocean world and oceanic studies more generally mean for southern African studies? How, for example, do themes of land-based migration, which are so strong in southern African studies, relate to themes of maritime migration and vice versa?
This conference took the lens of the port city as a way of approaching these questions. As a key node in the grammar of maritime mobility and immobility, the port city provides a productive site for integrating scholarship on the Indian Ocean world and southern African studies.
Building on, but moving beyond the well-established themes of Indian Ocean scholarship as they touch on southern Africa (slavery, indenture), this conference sought to explore a range of topics, including linkages between southern African Indian Ocean port cities; social histories and ethnographies of borders and port city bureaucracies; and the “carceral archipelago” of the Indian Ocean world and its relationship to southern African ports and hinterlands. Also dealt with were port cities as strategic nodes; port cities and transnational family histories; port cities and non-Western cosmopolitanisms and fault-lines; and Islamic networks and port cities.
The keynote address at the conference was delivered by Clare Anderson, Professor of History at the University of Leicester, who spoke on ‘The Carceral Archipelago of the Indian Ocean World: The Cape, Mascarene Islands, India and Australia’. Anderson has had a long interest in British colonialism and her work has centred on travels in the Indian Ocean, and prisons and penal colonies. She is the author of Legible Bodies: Race, Criminality and Colonialism in South Asia (Berg, 2004) and Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and has co-edited Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey (Cambridge University Press, 2013)