The Indian Ocean

Oceanic Connections and the Creation of New Societies

Edited by
June 2014 9781849044264 256pp
EU Customers


The Indian Ocean was the first venue of global trade, connecting the Mediterranean and South China Sea. Inspired by the insights of Fernand Braudel, and by Michael Mollat, who saw it as ‘a zone of encounters and contacts … a privileged crossroads of culture,’ this volume explores two inter-related themes. The first, on oceanic linkages, presents the diversity of the peoples who have traversed it and their relationships by tracing their tangible movements and connections. The second, on the creation of new societies, revisits better-known socio-historical phenomena –– such as slavery, indentured labour, the Swahili language and Muslim charity –– which tie the genesis of these social formations to the seascape of an interconnected, transcultural ocean. The chapters offer a broad and diverse view of the mobile, transregional communities that comprise Indian Ocean society, while in-depth case studies allow students and specialists to see how individual research projects may contribute to developing a view of the Indian Ocean as a transcultural arena, one in which individual societies were and are shaped by their interactions with others from across the waters. This volume will be suitable for courses in the burgeoning fields of world history, transcultural anthropology and the Indian Ocean.

Table of contents


1. Globalisation With a Difference: An Overview
Abdul Sheriff


2. Maritime Trade, Political Relations and Residential Diplomacy in the World of the Indian Ocean
Ravi Arvind Palat

3. Mapping the Indian Ocean World of Gulf Merchants, c. 1870–1960
Fahad Ahmad Bishara 

4. Between Pori, Pwani and Kisiwani: Overlapping Labour Cultures in the Caravans, Ports and Dhows of the Western Indian Ocean
Stephen J. Rockel

5. The Question of Slavery in Indian Ocean World History
Gwyn Campbell

6. Indentured Labour in the Indian Ocean and the Creation of New Societies
Vijayalakshmi Teelock


7. The state of Swahili Civilisation: Swahili Language and Society, Indian Ocean Antecedents and Anthropological Research
Mohamed Bakari

8. Cosmopolitanism or Exclusion? Negotiating Identity in the Expressive Culture of Contemporary Zanzibar
Paola Ivanov

9. Identity and Citizenship among the Comorians of Zanzibar, 1886–1963
Iain Walker

10. Philanthropy and Trust in the Straits of Melaka: Diversities in Civil and Global Approaches to Nationhoods
Wazir Jahan Karim



Engseng Ho is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and author of The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean, which tells of how Muslim sailors, scholars, merchants and settlers from Yemen have made a place for themselves across the Indian Ocean over the last 500 years.

Professor Abdul Sheriff is the Director of the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute and the author of three key books on the history of maritime East Africa.

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