Arts and Culture
Indian Ocean-Eurasian Connections
Through this panel, we attempt to reconfigure the Indian Ocean as a relational space rather than simply a geographical region. We do so by drawing upon social sciences and humanities scholarship that brings the studies of Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Africa together to consider how different geographies are connected—historically and in contemporary times—with other parts of the Indian Ocean world through oceanscapes, material cultures, artistic practices, spiritual networks, performances, and built environments. Employing ethnographic and historical methodologies, panelists explore specific Indian Ocean connectivity in the coastal belts and Island states of Fiji, Malabar Coast, and Swahili Coast—each the site of remarkably proliferous and heterogeneous histories. In the spirit of exploring fluidity and fusions in the Indian Ocean, this panel cobbles together new formulations from such axiomatic academic notions as hybrid practices, spiritual cartographies, affective geographies, visual pastiches, material histories, and ontological ways of knowing. The authors of these papers focus on Indian Ocean connections that are articulated and rendered through encounters, performances, visuality, and spaces. Through this examination of material histories and ontological interventions in Asia and beyond, we aim to provide a template for understanding how people or communities imagine the Indian Ocean through portals, mobile bodies, and micro-cultural practices.
The maritime context in the East and South China Seas highlights deep trends both in Asia in particular (regional concern for harmony, to avoid direct clashes and to lose the face – cf. the ASEAN way and the negotiations for the Code of Conduct) and in the post-Cold War International Relations (IR) scene in general. In other words, since the 2000s, the situation in the China Seas echoes General Beaufre’s “peace-war” concept: neither ‘peace’ (territorial disputes, naval harassment between fishermen, maritime militias and law enforcement agencies, militarisation), nor ‘war’ (common concerns to avoid escalation of violence and to protect sea trade).
Hence the increasingly significant role of the coast-guard fleets, which perfectly match with these priorities and constraints. Between 2000 and 2016, their tonnages rose from 70,000 to 105,500 in Japan, 110,000 to 190,000 in China and only (in absolute, not in relative) 10,000 to 20,000 in Philippines, one of the main rivals of China in the Spratlys, and from 3,500 to 6,000 in Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world (source: CSIS). Based on these figures, researchers have to move from the uniquely naval issues, to zoom-out and to consider the new challenges (regarding the law of the sea, the defence diplomacy) and their regional impacts (regarding the Code of conduct, maritime security and safety, arms modernisation).
The aim of this panel is to decipher the main initiatives from the major actors: China, Japan and United States (by alphabetical order) plus France, because of both its specific coast-guard-like model and its recent steps in the region (recent maritime partnership with Japan, high-level discussion on law enforcement at sea in Indonesia in 2017). It will focus on the public policy and the diplomacy ---opportunities, legal frameworks, implications in strategic and IR studies; without neglecting the domestic dimension--- the possible lack of leadership, absence of laws and decrees.