The final session will bring together historical and anthropological perspectives in order to discuss environmental and humanitarian issues across the Bay of Bengal, centered around its littoral ecologies. The discussion will follow four major points presented by our participants:
- The Bengal littoral’s overlapping margins of imperial and maritime history and the historical contextualization of the emergence of an inter-littoral Bay of Bengal world. This world of trade and commodities saw the entangled participation of Chinese, Malays, Arabs, Arakanese and the early Portuguese freebooters. It reveals an important but lesser-explored story of the deltaic coast that preceded the advent of the great European overseas trading corporations.
- The problematic distinction between land and water in the northern Bay of Bengal. Stepping beyond cartography, can we read land-water relationships in the swamps of Calcutta in a more holistic way with the use of almanacs?
- Global meanings of water at the local level: contextualizing the emerging meanings of water in the Sundarbans. The world largest mangrove forest at the borderlands of eastern India and its delicate ecology provide for a unique platform to discuss the confluence of ecological and socio-political shifts in the local water regime and its effects on longstanding modes of narrative, ritual, and practical engagement with water.
- Safeguarding the forest, evicting the human? In the recent history of the Bay of Bengal, the demand to conserve the environment has often been put in opposition to the demands of subsistence by subaltern populations. We will discuss this problematic friction by highlighting ethical and political dilemmas arising from policies in the Andaman Islands , which aim to protect vulnerable environments by endangering equally vulnerable forest-dwellers.