Call for Papers: AAS Panel on "Spatial proximities, cultural intimacies: Travelling as solidarity, freedom and pleasure in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1600-1947."

Mou Banerjee's picture
Call for Papers
August 1, 2018
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Asian History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies

Dear all,


We are two South-Asianists, looking for two more papers for the panel we are organizing on "Encountering the Exotic: Responses to the New and Foreign in Early Modern and Colonial South Asia" for AAS 2019, to be held in Denver from March 21-24. The draft-abstract is given below. We would very much like to put together a diverse panel, and the abstract below shows that there is considerable lee-way in presenting, both in terms of temporal and thematic scope and content. If interested, please send your abstracts to either me at or to Nicolas Roth at, by 8.00 pm EST on the 1st of August 2018.


Our very best wishes,

Mou Banerjee and Nicolas Roth.


Spatial proximities, cultural intimacies: Travelling as solidarity, freedom and pleasure in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1600-1947.

Travelling, either for work, pleasure or education, is often a transgressive act. Those who move across geographical, political and socio-cultural frontiers, whether within or across precolonial and postcolonial boundaries mandated by nation-states, often engage in the act as a form of an ethical exercise. This travelling might also be symbolic or intellectual, from the urban to the rural, from the center to the periphery and vice-versa. It results in, or so the travelers and their audiences imagine, to a widening of horizons - physical, mental and socio-political.

Travelling is translation (from the latin trans-latio, to carry across) in its very literal form, where once-alien landscapes and strangers become slowly revealed and familiarized not as wondrous, but essentially as human and related by that shared humanity. In the present political climate, travel and mobility have become increasingly divisive loci of socio-political debate. While migration, especially labor and refugee migrations across the Indian Ocean arena, have received growing attention in the study of South Asia across disciplines in the twentieth century, there is an urgent need to re-situate the fundamental human context of travel beyond these parameters, in a broader historical context, in the precolonial period as well as in the age of empires.

This panel aims to explore textual, archival and literary depictions of the many aspects of travel, real or imagined, as well as the gendered restrictions placed on mobility, in various South Asian languages from the early modern period to the present. By tracing the evolution in the generic ideals and expectations associated with writing about experiences garnered while travelling, the presenters on this panel will explore the transgressive nature of mobilities that fostered political, social, sexual and cultural intimacies and imaginaries. The panel will offer a more nuanced analysis of human solidarities fostered by traveling, which fundamentally reshaped debates about culture and identity in South Asia, and very much continue to do so at present.



Contact Info: 

Mou Banerjee, Dept. of History, Clemson University (

Nicolas Roth, Dept. of South Asian Studies, Harvard University (