seminar: Dr Pedro Machado (Indiana University) Shadow Networks: Labour, Capital and Pearling in the Indian Ocean
A joint event with the Global History and Culture Centre.
All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.
Since the 1980s historians have been fascinated by the economic, social and political dynamics of a connected Indian Ocean. Imperial expansion, labor migration and the circulation and exchange of commodities–such as tea, opium and, textiles–are deemed to underpin the history of this oceanic space and its widespread circuits of merchant mobility. Yet, the Indian Ocean is often conceptualized as a segmented space where the western Indian Ocean is treated as distinct from the Bay of Bengal, which in turn is separated from greater Southeast Asia and China. Such convenient distinctions, however, conceal a much more fluid reality. Using the world of pearl fisheries, this presentation challenges this regional approach and represents an attempt to chart a trans-local Indian Ocean history that breaks down the artificial divide between ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ oceanic spheres. Focusing on the Mergui archipelago along the southern Burmese coast from the late 18th century, this talk explores a rich trade in pearl and pearl shell that linked a region stretching from Southeast Asia, to India, northern Australia and coastal China into a single, complex network of marine product extraction.