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Ocean’s Gender: Towards a Gendered History of the Indian Ocean

July 25, 2020 4:30 am – July 25, 2019 8:30 am UTC+3 

The proposed panel seeks to charter some of the necessary methodological steps to establish a proper comparative / interactive historical "The proposed panelation, beyond traditional “areas studies" and 'nation -states', yet informed by local knowledge and contexts, to link it more closely to current efforts towards the establishment of connected Histories. Narratives/Historiographies of the Indian Ocean world have predominantly been through a male perspective alone, even though there were millions of women who have been historically living and moving across the littoral. From such microsites as hybrid families formed through inter-ethnic and interregional marriages, to such macrosites like forced migrations of slaves and indentured labourers, women have been at the centre of maritime social and cultural histories. The existing scholarship however has rarely addressed this aspect, and this panel proposes to address this lacunae by presenting three remarkable historical contexts/cases: of Ceylonese female slaves in South Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; of matrilineal and matriarchal Muslims of Asian and African coastal communities; and of a Mappila Coast Moor woman called Ayesha Rauf. The recent literature in the fields of legal and social histories and sociologies of everyday life, family networks, and transnational movements have begun to address the ways in which the oceanic space has affected and effected the lives of women in different ways and scales. The family trajectories of Eurasian communities of South and Southeast Asia (Sarkissian 2000; Mallampalli 2008; Walker 2012) and the legal and social battles of women in colonial Singapore and post-abolition Zanzibar against the patriarchal systems of colonial regimes, Muslim families, and Islamic and European laws (Stockreiter 2015; Stiles and Thompson 2015; McMahon 2013; Yahaya 2012) exemplify the growing scholarly interest in the field. Although situated in the maritime contexts, none of these studies have directly addressed the "oceanic" component as such. Our respective papers would further the nuances of female mobilities in the Indian Ocean world through forced and voluntary circuits of precolonial, colonial and postcolonial Asia and Africa. On the basis of three different tales, the panel will discuss the importance and implications of understanding the oceanic littoral through a gendered framework..


University of Dar es Salaam

University of Dar es Salaam

Cost: Free