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Water Unites, Land Divides

“The water unites and the land divides” is a common expression in Southeast Asia. It immediately refers to the archipelagic characters of the mainland and island Southeast Asia, but it also draws attention to the centrality of oceans in connecting people across time and space. The oceans have historically brought together people from different continents, countries and contexts, similar to a single water body in a deep forest that unites all the animals there. On the waters and shores of the seas, many civilizations and cultures have risen and fallen, and thousands of humans have prospered and perished in their unsurmountable yet eternal ambition to control the oceanic wilderness.

In this course, we explore the long histories of ocean-human entanglements, by looking at specific themes such as thalassophobia (fear of ocean), thalassophilia (love of ocean), thalassocracy (maritime state), along with diverse productions and circulations of knowledge systems and navigational practices. With a focus on the Indian Ocean bordering Asia, Africa and Australia and on a period between 800 and 1800 CE we shall see how the oceans dominated the human history. The course will introduce you to some foundational debates and issues in the fields of oceanic histories, and it will help you understand long histories that transcend national and continental borders and chronological brackets.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka