• Forum 3 - Asian Spatialities 1

The Indian Ocean World - Belonging across the Bay of Bengal

To overcome spatial limitations established by nations and empires, past and present, the Asian Spatialities Forum is concerned with flows, interactions, and community agency across seas and landmasses of Central, South, and Southeast Asia. The forum draws from a series of events cosponsored by IIAS and the University of Amsterdam and held in a number of Asian countries under the Asian Borderlands Research Platform.  The series has contributed to a reconfiguration of theoretical and methodological approaches to geographical regions in general. It encourages exchanges among local and international scholars possessing different disciplinary and regional expertise, with a focus on three distinct sub-projects.

The first sub-project in the Spatialities Studies Forum will focus on contested notions of belonging across the Bay of Bengal. For historical reasons linked to former colonial empires and continued relations between former colonies, interest in the Indian Ocean is more visible in the fields of teaching and research in institutions in Europe and Asia than in North America. But can the new oceanic turn offer a novel point of departure for critiquing the creation of bounded territorial forms and political communities? The subproject will consist of two workshops whose larger aim is to reflect critically on recent efforts to foreground ocean-centered historical geographies of South and South East Asian littoral zones.[1]The first workshop “Belonging Across the Bay of Bengal: Migrations, Networks, Circulations” will empirically test such differentials, while the second, “The Bay of Bengal and Area Studies: Space, Scale and Location”, will outline an agenda for future research along these lines and fashion an innovative teaching curriculum. In addition to invited participants, the second workshop will include graduate students and early career professors working on connections across the Bay of Bengal,

[1] The oceanic turn in history – or the “New Thalassology” as it is sometimes termed – has been propelled by an effort to transcend the territorial frameworks of areas, empires and states. Such thalassological elaborations have yet to reflect on the multiplicities of scale and space in response to specific historical problems.