ROUNDTABLE The Bay of Bengal – Perspectives across the Disciplines ICAS11 in Leiden

Carola Lorea's picture
Call for Papers
July 16, 2019 to July 18, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, South Asian History / Studies, Southeast Asian History / Studies

ROUNDTABLE PROPOSAL The Bay of Bengal – Perspectives across the Disciplines

ICAS11 - LEIDEN , 16-19 July 2019

DEADLINE for abstracts: OCTOBER 1ST, 2018

Please send a short abstract (max 250 words) together with your name, affiliation and contact details to Carola Erika Lorea ( or Jayati Bhattacharya ( by October 1, 2018.


*** The Bay of Bengal – Perspectives across the Disciplines ***


A web of maritime highways as well as a chessboard of relationships and mobilities, the Bay of Bengal, with its deltas and mangrove forests, busy harbors and disappearing coasts, is a vital region for several countries, both littoral (India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Thailand) and landlocked (Nepal, Bhutan, China, Northeast India, Nepal).

Often disregarded as the periphery and the liquid borderland between South Asia and Southeast Asia – two macro areas that came to define much of modern scholarship on the region -  the Bay of Bengal can be seen as the nodal crossroad, the center and the cultural hub for a network of exchanges and contacts of diverse kinds. This roundtable discussion aims to emphasize the spaces and trajectories in between these two macro areas by drawing attention on the land and maritime connections that traverse, begin or terminate in and across the Bay of Bengal. Transcending methodological nationalism, it focuses on transnational and transregional movements, practices and institutions.

Discussing the Bay of Bengal as a strategic area both at the convergence of two geo-political blocks (ASEAN and SAARC) and at the confluence of two competing maritime powers (India and China), this roundtable considers the high politics but also the everyday lives in the Bay of Bengal gathering perspectives from historical, anthropological, sociological, literary and multidisciplinary research. Its theoretical premise wishes to integrate:

  1. The recent interest in the history of the Bay of Bengal in academic scholarship (e.g. Sunil Amrith, Michael Laffan, Rila Mukherjee)
  2. The growing interest in the Indian Ocean Region, which still privileges the western theatre of the Indian Ocean despite the increasing importance of the Bay of Bengal for naval powers in the Indo-Pacific
  3. The increasing academic discussion on borders, borderlands and trans-border definitions (e.g. the Zomia concept and the work of James Scott, Willem van Schendel, Erik De Maaker among others) which often lays more emphasis on mainland ‘barbed wire borders’ rather than on shared ‘maritime heritages’ (Himanshu Prabha Ray) and ‘bordersea’ regions

From these fields of studies this roundtable will take up the priority given to flows of people, items and ideas rather than on fixed geographies and belongings. Hence we encourage scholars working on the following themes to participate and contribute to the debate:

  • Flows of people: including topics such as migration, refugees, labor, displacement, circular and seasonal mobilities, tourism, cultural tourism, medical tourism and pilgrimage.
  • Flows of items: trade, material culture providing connections, objects of practice and identitymaking, the circulation of literature, architecture, styles, fashion, consumption goods.
  • Flows of ideas: political, religious, and social movements across the borders, health and healing systems, cultural traditions, music and sound cultures, performance and oral traditions, connected ontologies and travelling narratives.
  • Environment, activism, aid and change. New challenges, climate change, ecological histories of the Bay of Bengal.

To complement and balance the underlined and romanticised notion of flows across fluid and porous transnational routes, the roundtable discussion also seeks to give equal attention to the interruption of such routes and the crystallization of national boundaries. Hence scholars interested in the following topics are encouraged to join the discussion:

  • The rigidity or borders: surveillance, monitoring of otherwise fluid connections, regulated trajectories.
  • Maritime walls and mainland crossings: control, bureaucracy, repression, rights, citizenships, borderland people and statelessness.  
  • Restrictions on the movement of people, ideas and goods: contractual boundaries, corruption, trafficking, smuggling, borderland criminal activities, poaching, piracy, new systems of indenture, vulnerability and subalternity, border towns’ lives.

Participants in the roundtable are asked to prepare a short presentation (6 – 9 minutes) that can include audio-visual material, to share their contribution or their ongoing research in the area under examination (the time slot for a roundtable is 1h45min). The prospected outcomes of the roundtable are: the creation of a long-lasting network of scholars on the Bay of Bengal from diverse disciplines across the humanities and social sciences; the establishment of a research group that is willing to continue the conversation and collaborate in the future; the discussion of ideas for further research, team research proposals and potential funding entities to support the longevity of the network; the evaluation of possible options for sharing ongoing research and conversations (e.g. a blog post series,  online forum/public community, open access articles for broad public).

Please send a short abstract (max 250 words) together with your name, affiliation and contact details to Carola Erika Lorea ( or Jayati Bhattacharya ( by October 1, 2018.

*** Thanks for sharing this call with your friends and colleagues who are interested in understanding the historical construction as well as the emerging importance of the Bay of Bengal region. ***