South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Chittagong and the Northern Bay of Bengal: Viewing the History of South Asia from the Perspective of Circulation

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

Circulation of people, ideas, technologies, and cultures is crucial to understand the littoral region of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta. The port city of Chittagong has played a pivotal role in the Bay of Bengal-Indian Ocean sea route circulation and maritime history of Asia. Today the second largest city of Bangladesh is kept not only in the margins of political representation in South Asia but also at the margins of area studies literature. The history of Chittagong presents a picture opposite to the one resulting from contemporary area studies. The earliest mention of Chittagong is found in Tibetan manuscripts and the Maldives and Sunda Island through cowrie exchange of rice that played a crucial role in the economy of the port. The maritime history of the port city also reaches beyond to Aden and Jeddah much before the European overseas expansion. It is tempting to name Chittagong as an epitome of a maritime Asian city, one that owes its development to the coming together of Asian/Indian Ocean economies. Looking how those negotiations in the Northern Bay of Bengal and the long distance circulations pan out opens the door to a different history of Inter Asia connections. It brings nuances to the ideas of the tyranny of proximity and its opposite stand, the tyranny of distance. Those negotiations involve a different articulation between the milieu and its control, hence a different perspective of polities as a whole.

Samuel Berthet

Shiv Nadar University, India

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3 - Chittagong and the Northern Bay of Bengal: Viewing the History of South Asia from the Perspective of Circulation



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