11th-13th MARCH 2009

This conference, hosted by the University of Technology Sydney, was the first conference of the Intercolonial Networks project and the third conference in our Indian Ocean series. The previous two conferences were held at Leiden in September 2006 and Perth in February 2008. Intercolonial Networks was opened by Theo van Leeuwen, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the participants were welcomed by Sue Rowley, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research. The conference was the occasion for the official launch of the Indian Ocean and South Asia Research Network (IOSARN) by the High Commissioner for India, Her Excellency Sujatha Singh. The organisers wish to thank the University of Technology Sydney, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the South Asia Node of the Asia Pacific Futures Network of the ARC (APFN) for making the conference possible.

Conference activities began on Monday with a public showing of two recent prize-winning Indian documentary films attended by the film-makers, Anjali Monteiro and K.P.Jayasankar from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences at Mumbai. The Bond tells the story of a migrant worker to Mumbai while Our Family explores issues of gender and identity through the study of a transgender Tamil Aravani family. On Tuesday, Meg Samuelson, of Stellenbosch University, South Africa, gave a talk at Transforming Cultures entitled “Protean constructions of self and nation: the sea as archive and trope in post-apartheid South African literature and culture”.

The next three days were devoted to papers and discussion. As in the previous conferences, the emphasis was on strengthening the interdisciplinarity of the field, drawing not only on cultural studies, history, economics and politics but on environmental studies, ecology, geography and the material studies of archaeology and the heritage fields. This time we also sought to strengthen an active awareness of the eastern and southern quadrant of the Indian Ocean, namely South East Asia, Indonesia and Australia, tracing these lands’ myriad connections with each other and with the peoples on the African and South Asian shores of the Ocean. Our project endeavours to trace the circulation of people, plants and animals, of commodities, technologies and ideas around the Indian Ocean in a way that was relatively autonomous from imperial centres.

The keynote addresses were :
Pamila Gupta & Sarah Nuttall (WITS)
Islands and Cities: Cultural Corridors in the Indian Ocean

Janet Ewald (Duke)
Motley Crews, Constricted Mobility: The Creation of a Racialized Maritime Labour Force in the Indian Ocean, c.1615-190

The other 22 papers were:
Michael Pearson (UTS)
Terracentric Social Science and Maritime History

Clare Anderson (Warwick)
An American in the Andaman Islands, 1861-4

Nigel Worden (Capetown)
Evoking a Different Past: the Indian Ocean Roots of Early Colonial Cape Town

Meg Samuelson Stellenbosch)
Texts in motion: tracing the flow of letters and news in an Indian-South African exchange (1928-46)

Kirsten McKenzie (Sydney)
The Daemon Behind the Curtain: William Edwards and the Theatres of Liberty

Ian Duffield (Edinburgh)
Convicts and Transgressive/Liberational Voyaging Networks between Australia, the Indian Ocean, South-east Asia & the Pacific, 1790-1825

Souchou Yao (UTS)
Home and Circulation: from China to Malaya and Back

Devleena Ghosh (UTS)
A Commercial Tourist: A Khoja Muslim’s Travel to Australia

Ursula Rao (UNSW)
Adopting and Adapting: The Global Circulation of Infotainment and New Forms of Political Criticism in India

Ramaswami Harindranath (Melbourne)
Networks of Terror: the Mediatised Performance of Political Violence

Anjali Monteiro & K.P.Jayasankar (TISS)
Popular Cinema and ‘Indian Culture’

Anjali Roy (IIS)
Singh is King? Sikhs on the Move in the Indian Ocean

Stephen Muecke (UNSW)
The Late Imperial Writings of F D Ommanney in the Indian Ocean

Srilata Ravi (UWA)
Creolization and Modernity on Reunion Island

Heather Goodall (UTS)
Rethinking Independence: Australia, India and Indonesia at the Delhi Conference, January 1949

Thom van Dooren (UTS)
Vulture Movements: Suffering through Genetic Resources in a Time of Extinctions

Ben Maddison (Wollongong)
Subaltern Space, Australia’s Colonial Commons and Native Title

Haripriya Rangan (Monash)
The Political Ecology of Plant Exchanges around the Indian Ocean

Julia Martinez (Wollongong)
Conquering the Indian Ocean: Connecting British Colonies via Submarine Cables, 1870-1901

Deborah Nixon (UTS)
Railways and Domiciled Communities in Pre-Partition India

Jan Lingard (UTS)
Sailors as Stirrers: The Role of Indonesian Merchant Seamen in the Indonesian Independence Movement in Wartime Australia

Suzan Piper (UTS)
Smaller fish in an even smaller pond: Indonesian Muslim Women’s Settlement in Sydney from the 1960s to the present

As with previous conferences, a selection of the papers will be published as a special issue of the e-journal Transforming Cultures.