The Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies has been active for two years. Its activities include lecture series, book launches, workshops with PhD students, and international collaborations. These past successes reveal a broadly shared need to engage with the Indian Ocean in a more institutionalized way. Paradoxically, the actual Indian Ocean is often lacking in institutional collaborations on the Indian Ocean, causing us to miss out on opportunities to include students and scholars from the region as well as other thinkers (artists, film makers, memoirists, etc.). We aim, therefore, to re-establish connections across the Indian Ocean and forge new ones. Over the past years, we have located three threads in which the Indian Ocean can open up creative spaces to think about broad, collaborative issues:
1) The Ocean as a strategic space: e.g. ports, security-policies, the environment, OBOR, and the historical trajectories of these themes.
2) Methodological innovation: e.g. drawing from new types of archives and practices, such as textile-working and food-preparation.
3) A laboratory for societal output: e.g. synergies between scholarship, art, heritage, community initiatives, and popular history.
Concretely, we aim to play a role in establishing synergies and durable networks between institutions within the Indian Ocean. To do so, we plan to co-organize regular events hosted by affiliated institutions in Zanzibar, Calicut, Muscat, Penang, Cape Town, Banda Aceh, and others. These include biannual mentorship events in which academics (predominantly) from the Indian Ocean are invited to teach reading-and-writing workshops to students from the region. A conference will follow each workshop. We plan to host the pilot workshop in Calicut in December 2020.
During this interactive Roundtable, a number of established researchers will be asked to respond to pre-circulated questions, which can help us homogenize our agendas and outline fundraising strategies to sponsor scholars and students from the Indian Ocean to play a central part in this initiative.