Call for Papers : Textile Trades and Consumption in the Indian Ocean World, from Early Times to the Present

International Conference organized by the Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC), McGill University, Montreal, Canada

2-4 November 2012

Co-Organisers: Gwyn Campbell (IOWC, McGill University), Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum),
and Pedro Machado (Indiana University)

This multi-disciplinary international conference aims to bring together scholars from
across the humanities and social sciences to share findings, methodologies and
theoretical perspectives on cloth’s critical role in driving exchanges in the Indian
Ocean World from early times to the present day.

Oceans have emerged as promising intellectual frameworks for reinterpreting past and
present spatial and temporal constructs. The Indian Ocean World (IOW) in particular has
recently attracted academic attention as a space of movement and inter-relation that transcends conventional paradigms centring on the nation
state, regional studies, and European empires. Stretching from East Africa through the
Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to China, the IOW forms a unique macro-region where
the monsoon regime of winds and currents largely moulded production and exchange. Indeed,
the IOW emerged during the first millennium CE as arguably the first “global” economy,
defined as a sophisticated and durable system of long-distance exchange. There is further
debate as to the impact on the IOW trading structure of Europeans from the sixteenth
century, the international economy of the nineteenth century, European colonialism and
its aftermath, and modern globalisation.

Central to these debates is the role of textiles. For centuries, cloths of various
origins, fibres, colours and patterns have been carried along coasts and across vast
distances to communities that demanded certain types in accordance with their specific
cultural, social and political universes. Rather than take a particular fibre, ‘country’
or European company as the unit of study, this conference aims to explore the broader
cross-currents of textile flows in the IOW. It seeks to explore, in particular,
structures of trade, distribution, demand, marketing and consumption – in all of which
finance and credit played vital roles. It also strives to understand local consumer
demand as a vital force in shaping the economic, political, social, and artistic history
in both producer and consumer communities. Emerging from the wider scholarship of
culturally inflected material histories of the movement and exchange of commodities, the
study of textile consumption and the logics of consumer tastes, as socially and
culturally embedded processes, can offer compelling insight into how societies,
communities and people create and maintain identities through strategies of
self-fashioning, and thereby shape the world around them. Moreover, it is when studied
within the same analytical frame as the production, distribution and marketing of
textiles that consumption can contribute most profoundly to an understanding of the
dynamics of the worlds of the Indian Ocean stretching from Africa to East Asia.

This multi-disciplinary international conference invites paper proposals that examine any
aspect of the trade, exchange and consumption of textiles in the Indian Ocean world from
early times to the present day. We particularly welcome papers that explore networks and
structures of:

– local finance and credit

– distribution and marketing

– demand and consumption

and within these the significance of (i) gender and age; and (ii) religious practice and
ideology  (including the ritual, political and social uses and meanings attached to
imported cloth)

Dates and Registration:

*  Deadline for submission of abstracts (title; 1-2 paragraphs): 21 October 2011.

* The review process will be completed by 1st November 2001.

*  Papers selected for the conference must be submitted no later than 1st September 2012.

*  The registration fee is $175 US ($75 US for students) payable by 1st September 2012.

*  The late registration fee (after 1st September 2012) is $200 US and $100 US for

Kindly contact Sarah Fee <> or Pedro Machado <> with
proposals (or with any queries).

Eric Vallet

Maitre de conférences, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

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