Maritime Modernities: Literary and Cultural Representations of The Indian Ocean World

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Presidency University
contact email: 

Maritime Modernities: Literary and Cultural Representations of The Indian Ocean World

Ed. by Anupama Mohan

Special Issue, Postcolonial Text

Projected date of Special Issue: June 2019

The Indian Ocean World (IOW) is constituted of oceanic, littoral, and coastal cultures spanning China to Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. To explore the spaces of the IOW provides an entry-point for rethinking the very terracentrism of national boundaries and their narratives, and indeed, to posit the sea or the ocean as the vantage from which to re-draw the maps of global modernity. The Indian Ocean rim witnessed the early emergence of a thriving commercial and cultural system, with numerous centres of production, traffic, and market, that, by the end of the tenth century, led to booming intra-oceanic trade links. The IOW was thus home to the first truly global economy, one that dominated the macro-region until at least the mid-eighteenth century and has, in light of recent conversations on climate change and the Anthropocene, become resurgent once again. Today the IOW comprises 50% of the planet’s population and is forecast to become the leading world economy by 2020, according to the webpage of the Indian Ocean World Centre (at McGill University), one of the many centres of academic study that have emerged globally in the past few decades, owing to the rising sociopolitical, economic, and cultural significance of the IOW in such fields as international relations, human rights, urban geography, archaeology, and more.

In this Special Issue of Postcolonial Text, we want to respond to the call made most recently by geographers like Rila Mukherjee “to re-centre our historical imagination and envisage new spatialities when attempting a water history.” Michael Pearson suggests evocatively the need to re-draw global histories via the ocean: “A history of an ocean needs to be amphibious, moving easily between land and sea.” And in a recent essay published in the American Historical Review, Gaurav Desai has argued for the need to seriously grasp “[t]he actual materiality of the sea—its wetness, its depth, its ecologies, and the material conditions of those who come into direct contact with it…” By using the evocative images of amphibiousness and wetness, we want to encourage interdisciplinary essays that are wide-ranging in exploring the richness and complexity of the IOW as a category of analysis and inquiry, from the special vantage-point of the literary and the aesthetic. The IOW itself has a deep historical past in languages other than English: from Greco-Roman times to One Thousand and One Nights. This Special Issue, in our vision, will work towards creating zones of contact between multiple fields (literature, history, environmental studies, anthropology, labor and gender studies, among others), and will bring together thinkers and scholars on a topic that, despite its urgency and topicality, has so far not been comprehensively examined in one place from a literary/aesthetic lens. While the essays need to be written in English, we encourage scholars to submit abstracts on works in translation.

Some of the topics relevant to this issue are:

  1. Literature and the coastal cultures of the IOW
  2. Comparative frameworks: Multiple Languages and the IOW
  3. Conceptual and theoretical examinations of the IOW
  4. The IOW and the longue durée of global modernities
  5. Object flows and material histories in the IOW
  6. Cross-cultural exchange in the IOW
  7. Genre and the IOW
  8. Specific authors who have set their works in the IOW

Postcolonial Text is unique in terms of its eclectic structure: we invite academic and scholarly essays as well as book reviews and creative pieces. Please see this link for further details:

Please send in abstracts for scholarly essays (500 words) and a short bio (100 words) by 1 June 2018. For creative pieces, please send a significant sample: if short story, then, a 500-word selection along with a 100 word blurb of the story; if poetry, please send a significant section/s of the poem/s. If you are interested in reviewing a book, please send a separate email titled "PT Special Issue: Book Review" and we will be in touch.

All selected essays and creative pieces will need to be submitted by  15 November 2018.

Abstracts and bios should be emailed as one Word document to: