Knowledge Traditions of the Indian Ocean World

Lecture Theatre, Ashmolean Museum
Thursday, 29 November 2018 – 10:00am to Friday, 30 November 2018 – 5:00pm

Organised by Ashmolean Museum, Anneliese Maier Research Award, and Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Evidence indicates that intellectual advances in many fields were the outcome of cross pollination of ideas resulting from travels across the Indian Ocean world. The interchange of ideas across societies and regions created the dynamism necessary for the emergence and sustenance of extensive civilizations and the movement of scholars and students. This workshop is a rediscovery of our Indian Ocean past and there seems no better way to undertake this than through retracing the ideas and the debates that were at the heart of the great intellectual enterprises of the maritime world of Asia. The conference also has a more contemporary agenda.

In the current phase of globalization and economic development it is commonly held that states and societies which have control of knowledge are economic frontrunners which hold out the promise of a better life for their citizens. While the mantle may have passed to the developed West for now, an understanding of the importance of learning and knowledge and its institutionalization in societies in Asia would provide insights for a revival of knowledge societies across this region. Existing evidence, both archaeological and textual, indicates the breadth of the intellectual discourse which ran through the Indian Ocean world.

Anthropological studies have shown the close interaction that maritime communities maintain with the sea and the extent to which their knowledge of the waters and seafaring knowledge are vital to their identity construction. How are histories of these mobile communities to be factored into an understanding of the history of the sea? Historically these communities, variously termed sea-gypsies or boat-people have travelled unhampered across the waters and claimed sovereignty through kinship ties. They have facilitated movement of commodities and have forged links with littoral states, but they are by no means homogenous.

Among the many forms of exchange which took place in the Indian Ocean Region the sailing vessels which were swept by the monsoon winds across this maritime domain also encouraged dialogue between communities of scholars, officials and religious clergy. The exchange of ideas and beliefs led to the development of new technologies and skills, as also the maturity and advance of intellectual traditions. This symposium aims to bring together scholars.

Speakers include Prof. Paul Lane (Cambridge), Prof. Ingo Strauch (Lausanne), Dr. Rebecca Darley (Birkbeck), Dr. Srinivas Reddy (Brown), Dr. Andrew Bauer (Stanford), Dr. Mathew A. Cobb (Wales), Ms. Nesrin El-Galy (Oxford), Dr. Anna M. Kotarba-Morley (Macquarie), Prof. Dionisius A. Agius (Exeter), Dr. Elizabeth Lambourn (De Montfort), Dr. Shailendra Bhandare (Ashmolean), Dr. Salila Kulshreshtha, Dr. Mamta Dwivedi (Freiburg), Dr. Vincent Tournier (EFEO), Ms. Sophia van Zyle Warshall (UCLA), and Dr. Veronica Walker Vadillo (Helsinki).