CFP: Interdisciplinary Workshop: Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Steven Solomon Discussion

Call for Papers


Interdisciplinary Workshop:


A Sea that Links and Binds: Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present


4 – 5 June 2015

Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)

Berlin, Germany


Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: 15 January 2015



Convener: Dr. Steven Serels (ZMO)



            The Red Sea links Africa and Arabia into a closely linked, multifaceted socio-economic system that has, historically, transcended ethnic, linguistic and political divides. Rather than act as a barrier, the sea has facilitated the movement of people, goods and ideas across the region. The creation, maintenance and evolution of this social system have been and continue to be dependent on the establishment and development of patterns of human-environment interaction. For example, maritime shipping is dependent on specialized climatological and geographic knowledge that allows ship captains to harness wind patterns and navigate the network of coral reefs and barrier near the African and Arabian littorals. Collective cooperation amongst diverse actors in the interior is required to exploit the region’s natural resources, to move goods to the coast and to develop natural harbors into well used ports. Despite its multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan aspects, this social system has been and continues to be shaped by the forces of compulsion and coercion. Arms have been used to restructure social interactions, as well as patterns of production and trade. Social pressures have led some Red Sea communities to adjust their internal structures and to abandon or adopt specific cultural practices.

            This workshop will explore the dynamics of cooperation, coercion and compulsion in the Red Sea region. These dynamics allowed diverse groups of actors to participate in the making and remaking of the transnational Red Sea social system. Papers will show the ways in which these social forces were, like the men and women who were both their subjects and objects, thoroughly bound into the natural geography of the region. To facilitate discussion, the workshop will focus on the period from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. During this time period, the Red Sea social system rapidly transformed alongside other, rapid political, economic, technological and environmental changes. In response to these changes, individual and collective strategies based upon cooperation, coercion and compulsion were adjusted. For some people, this meant improved personal security. Unfortunately, for others this meant further instability and an increase in the precariousness of everyday life.

Papers are welcome on the entire greater Red Sea region, defined as encompassing modern day states of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Preference in the selection process will be given to papers that highlight interregional connections. The workshop will be truly interdisciplinary and papers will be drawn, primarily, from the fields of History, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Sociology and Political Science. However, papers from other, related fields will be considered.

Suggested paper topics include:

·         Port cultures

·         Social dynamics on board ships

·         Migrations, forced and otherwise, and the integration of migrant communities in their new homes

·         Relationships between ruling elites and their subject populations

·         The spread of religious beliefs and spiritual practices

·         The regional transmission of knowledge about the natural world

·         The impact of climatological change and environmental hazards on inter- and intra-communal relations

Those interested in participating should submit an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short CV to by 15 January 2015. The review process will be completed by the middle of February 2015. There is a limited budget to assist early career researchers with travel expenses.