The Indian Ocean in Antiquity

The Course

The Indian Ocean in Antiquity

The Indian Ocean lies at the crux of the ancient Afro-Asian world. Navigable seaways and monsoon winds channeled people, ideas, and commodities across this vast space over three millennia. Expeditions from New Kingdom Egypt foretell of later Persian, Chinese, Swahili, Portuguese, Dutch, Ottoman, Mughal, and Omani duels of political ambition. Elites and religious pilgrims from the Arabian Peninsula to Southeast Asia sought ideological converts while merchants traded in pepper, pearls, and ivory. Ethiopians and Indians, agents in such contests, led their own states or toiled as slaves or indentured workers in Iraq or Mauritius. All the while, musical, architectural, and philosophical ideas diffused across the region, creating countless variations on aspects of shared heritages. This course introduces the vibrant societies, cosmopolitan cultures, and rich pasts of the Indian Ocean.

About Jonathan Walz

Jonathan R. Walz is an historical archaeologist whose work focuses on East Africa and the Indian Ocean. His articles and commentary on African historical experience, archaeology, heritage, and critical theory have appeared in American Anthropologist, American Antiquity, Historical Archaeology, The African Archaeological Review, and The Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology, among other publications. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Florida and a B.A. with highest honors in Anthropology and African Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a graduate fellow, he studied African history and Swahili language at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at Rollins College and a Research Associate at The Field Museum in Chicago.

(Final Paper and PowerPoint) The Dragon Fleet and Chinese Cosmopolitanism or Lack Thereof

Introduction to the Dragon Fleet
By Jennifer Ritter

(Final PowerPoint) A look at the seven  tribute  voyages of Zheng  He  under  the   command  of Emperor  Yongle.
Click here to view the Powerpoint presentation.

(Final Paper) The Dragon Fleet and Chinese Cosmopolitanism or Lack Thereof
By Jennifer Ritter

A preponderance of research has been conducted on the seven voyages of imperial eunuch Zheng He during the Ming dynasty. He commanded a massive armada, the largest navy that the world had ever seen. The fleet remained surpassed until WWI. Traveling throughout the Indian Ocean, his fleet touched down in at least thirty countries. Some resisted these foreign intruders, but most recognized the navy␣␣ power and submitted to Chinese authority. One recurring question is whether or not China in this era subscribed to cosmopolitanism. The voyages of the Dragon Fleet did not openly increase cosmopolitanism in China; however, they did provide syncretization opportunities for overseas Chinese and non-Chinese foreigners.

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(Reading Summary) The Global Repercussions of Consumerism I

(Reading Summary) The Global Repercussions of Consumerism I
By Abby Rosenson

This article discusses the great influence that East African consumers in the nineteenth century had in shaping the global economy. Essentially, these consumers, who were previously viewed as less dominant in trade dealings, actually functioned as the main drive behind and determiners of the trade. The Africans living on the East coast would only accept very specific types of goods and the goods had to be made in a very specific manner. Additionally, preferences generally varied between tribes. Traders who came into the region without regard for these explicit and diverse preferences risked returning home with little to no profit.

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(Reading Summary) The Global Repercussions of Consumerism II

(Reading Summary) The Global Repercussions of Consumerism II
By Ashley Siao

Western perceptions and ethnocentrism has led people to believe that one question has one answer, and it would be a fairly simple one at that. As illustrated in Prestholdt’s article, though, that thought process is grossly inaccurate. Through various illustrations about textile trade and its effects in three different continents, the importance of multidimensional perspectives, plural causality, and the pivotal interests of the periphery are put into the spotlight. Similar to the concept of the butterfly effect in which one small action can have large repercussions on the other side of the world, the fickleness and whims of the people in East Africa had massive effects in other parts of the world and on the global economy in general.

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(Reading Summary) Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates I

(Reading Summary) Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates I
By Ian Nora

Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates both depend upon expatriate labor for much of their domestic workforce. British dominance in the Indian Ocean during the colonial period resulted in the spread of many similar concepts, that make the transition from working elsewhere in the Indian Ocean Basin to Kuwait or UAE much easier. The pearl industry created much of the wealth in these Persian Gulf countries, until the Japanese created a method of synthetic pearl production. After this revelation, oil production became the major source of income for these nations.

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(Reading Summary) Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates II

(Reading Summary) Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates II
By Abby Rosenson

This article discusses the cultural currents present in the two Persian Gulf states Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although the influx of different South Asian populations does not vary greatly between either state, and non-citizens comprise a majority of the population, the ways in which outside cultures live and adapt differs quite a fair amount. The article specifically discusses differences in language, policing, and gender practices. The non-citizens, or expatriates, discussed are laborers from other Asian nations who have come to work in the Persian Gulf. The author discusses the social ranks of different nationalities in each state as well as what these different ranks are entitled to.

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(Short Writing Assignment) Comparative Diasporas II

(Short Writing Assignment) Comparative Diasporas II
By Matt Behnke

The African diaspora in the New World and the African and Asian diasporas in
the Indian Ocean vary in a few essential ways. The true definition of their slavery or forced labor explained their lifestyle and living conditions. The conditions in which different diasporas occur decides the number of differences and similarities between them. Going to the New World held its own distinct conditions compared to any diaspora into the Indian Ocean for a few reasons. The African and Asian diasporas in the Indian Ocean held quite a few similarities and affected similar regions over the same general period of time. Overall there were many defining factors of both the New World diaspora and the diasporas into the Indian Ocean.

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(Short Writing Assignment) Comparative Diasporas I

(Short Writing Assignment) Comparative Diasporas I
By Katie Van Sickle

Although instances of diasporas in the New World and in the Indian Ocean in antiquity both qualify as slavery, there are grave differences amongst fundamental characteristics of the two populations. The definition of slavery is said to be the forcible control of another person, including their labor production and reproductive capabilities. As this is broad terminology, there are various relationships that constitute slavery. Even in the Indian Ocean region in antiquity there were multiple forms of slavery, with vastly different diasporas emanating from Africa and Asia. I will contrast the slave diasporas in the New World to that of Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean.

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(Final Paper) Pearling in the Gulf Explored: The Life of a Pearl Diver

(Final Paper) Pearling in the Gulf Explored: The Life of a Pearl Diver
By Emma Plouffe

Trade in the Indian Ocean provided jobs and caused merchants to travel many miles. One of the key commodities abundant in the Indian Ocean and specifically the Persian Gulf is known as “tears of heaven”: pearls. Pearls are considered great treasures and were symbolic of the elite since they were expensive and rare. Pearl diving and fishing, therefore, held an importance to the economy, but were arguably one of the most dangerous activities in the region. An increased number of slaves were required in that region due to the dangerous nature of pearling but overall the activity contributed to successful economic growth, until the discovery of the manmade pearl was introduced by the Japanese at a lower price in the 1900s.

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(Final Paper) Maritime Technological Innovation in the Indian Ocean

(Final Paper) Maritime Technological Innovation in the Indian Ocean
By Ian Nora

Throughout history, maritime technology has advanced. While most maritime technological innovations have generally been towards the same direction, certain aspects of practice have been isolated to certain locales. In the basin of the Indian Ocean, the largest disparity between technological advancements occurred between the Chinese maritime culture and the culture of the Arabian Sea and East African Coast. Advancements in maritime technology in antiquity largely revolved around improving the speed and safety of a voyage. Most technological innovations can be separated into 3 categories: hull design, rigging design, and navigation. Practical change is persistent, but technological changes due to cultural ideology may also exist and drive change in practical ways.

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