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ACLA Seminar: Encounters in the Indian Ocean: Colonial and Postcolonial Imaginaries

Organizer: Asma Sayed

Co-Organizer: Pushpa Acharya

The fluid space of the Indian Ocean and its territorial rims, i.e. Africa, Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, were ‘deterritorialized’ and ‘reterritorialized’ not only by the forces of capital but also by knowledge-power nexus during and after the colonial period. In the age of neoliberal globalism, the story of the Indian Ocean has gained a renewed interest as it reminds us of the greatest mobility and traversal with such an impact that it forces us to rethink how the processes of such encounters operate and what the areas stand for. The story that remains untold is the colonial and postcolonial interactions in this cosmopolitan “interregional arena” (as Sugata Bose refers to it in A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire, 2006). Looking at the history of colonial, postcolonial, and interregional encounters will shed light on under-explored areas in postcolonial studies and may possibly reshape our understanding of Africa and Asia. While we know much about Afro-Asian encounters with the West, reading the history as an encounter with the East might provide us with a different set of possibilities of interpretation and analysis (Gaurav Desai – Commerce With the Universe, 2013). The studies of the Indian Ocean worlds, which includes the Bay of Bengal, may even provide “a key to understanding Asia’s future” (Sunil Amrith,Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants, 2013).

This panel seeks papers that explore how the Indian Ocean emerges as a contact zone; how the colonial and postcolonial movements in the Indian Ocean and its rim have been recorded, imagined, constituted and conceptualized, and responded to; how they reveal the story of migration (voluntary and forced), trade, and climate change; how such encounters led to formations of multiple histories and identities; how comparative literary studies opens up the possibilities of rethinking Asias and Africas; and how empire and capital have operated in the Indian Ocean area. We welcome papers that engage with these (and other possible) questions in the Indian Ocean Studies, and accommodate different national, literary, and disciplinary contexts. Papers may either explore literary or visual texts or other forms of textualities. Please submit a 250 word proposal via the ACLA website. Please contact Asma Sayed ( or Pushpa Acharya ( for further info.

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