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Call for Papers: : Sounding the Indian Ocean: Musical Circulations in the Afro-Asiatic Seascape

Friday, May 11, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephanie Sturgis
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CFP: Sounding the Indian Ocean: Musical Circulations in the Afro-Asiatic Seascape (edited volume)


Editors: Julia Byl (University of Alberta), jbyl@ualberta.ca

Jim Sykes (University of Pennsylvania), jimsykes@sas.upenn.edu



Abstracts due: May 30th (300 words maximum)

Conference at UPenn (pending funding): Fall 2018

Chapters due: February 2019

Volume sent to publisher: Summer 2019


Scope of the Edited Volume:

The circulations of the Indian Ocean have substantially formed the musical cultures of its populations, and animated the work of those who study these musical cultures—scholars working in East Africa, South India, or island Southeast Asia. And yet, compared to the Silk Road, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the full scope of the Indian Ocean has not yet been engaged in ethnomusicology in a sustained way. Sounding the Indian Ocean is a long-overdue project that puts ethnomusicologists into dialogue with scholars working in a number of interrelated fields—from literary and religious histories to nationalism and twenty-first century geopolitics. A vastly interconnected “arena” (Bose 2006) and “Afro-Asiatic seascape” (de Silva Jayasuriya 2003), the Indian Ocean is eminently familiar to historians and geographers; in recent years there has also been a surge of interest from scholars of the humanities and social sciences (e.g. Amrith 2013; Alpers 2013; Sheriff and Ho 2014). Prominent conferences on the topic have been held at McGill (2017), Harvard (2016), UT Austin (2014), and Chicago (2013), with multi-year projects held at UC Davis (traversing the whole Indian Ocean from an anthropological view) and Kings College London (on historical studies of music and colonization in the Eastern Indian Ocean). 


In this edited volume, we emphasize the importance of the Indian Ocean for understanding global music histories. While ethnomusicologists have long worked on Indian Ocean music cultures, we have not always defined them as such, nor engaged in the multi-sited, multi-lingual work of tracing musical flows across its expanse. We contend that our field’s area studies divisions (“Southeast Asia,” “Africa,” “the Middle East”), in tandem with the land-based nationalisms of the postcolonial period, have obscured long-standing musical connections across the Indian Ocean. By training our focus on the ocean’s islands and rim, and its populations and musical transmissions, our volume will strive to better understand Indian Ocean musical circulations and in the process, challenge ethnomusicology’s normative area studies divisions. We also plan to feature chapters that use ethnography to capture the continued relevance of Indian Ocean musical cultures and circulations in the twenty-first century.

If this frame is interesting to you, we invite you to let us know about your projects (including emergent work!). We have already had acceptances from some obvious collaborators, but are hoping to find some additional ones. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

-     African/Asian musical connections (e.g. Afro-Sri Lankans, the African musical influence in the Maldives, Sidis in Gujarat and Pakistan, Cape Malays in South Africa, music histories of Indian Ocean slave populations)

-     The musics of islands of historical importance that have been under-recognized in ethnomusicology (e.g. Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, the Maldives, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands)

-     The musics of port cities whose maritime cultural significance has been obscured by land-centric national histories (e.g. Stone Town in Zanzibar, Muscat, Colombo, Malacca)

-     Genres and sounds with a specifically Indian Ocean history (e.g. the songs of pearl divers, the "boatspeak" of Lascar sailors, the movement of instruments and songs via the monsoon)

-     The musics of religious pilgrimages across the Indian Ocean (e.g. Mecca; the Saint of Nagore in India and Southeast Asia; the veneration of St Anthony of Padua)

-      Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian musical/sonic networks (e.g. Sufis and Hadhramis; Buddhist movements between Ceylon, Myanmar, and Thailand; the musical impact of Christian missionaries)

-      The musics of the Tamil diaspora, including that of plantation laborers in colonial Mauritius and Malaysia, and postcolonial Tamil musical cultures and circulations between these regions

-      The past and present of Chinese musical influence in the Indian Ocean

-      Music in Portuguese, Dutch, French, or British colonial systems

-      Music and sound in relation to current political developments in the Indian Ocean, such as ethnonationalism, Islamic reformism, the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, Chinese infrastructural investments in the region, and climate change.


If you have an interesting approach to any of these Indian Ocean music topics—or even better, one we have not thought of—we look forward to hearing from you. In addition to the subject and geographical remit of your paper, please indicate its scope and methodology (e.g. historical, ethnographic, multi-sited, etc.). 

You can find the timeline for the volume and the emails of the editors listed above. We look forward to hearing from you.


Alpers, Edward. 2013. The Indian Ocean in World History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Amrith, Sunil. 2013. Crossing the Bay of Bengal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bose, Sugata. 2006. A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

de Silva Jayasuriya, Shihan. 2003. "Indian Oceanic Crossings: Music of the Afro-Asian Diaspora." African Diaspora 1 (2008), pp. 135-154.

Sheriff, Abdul and Enseng Ho, eds. 2014. The Indian Ocean: Oceanic Connections and the Creation of New Societies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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