Résumé: Slaves, convicts, indentured immigrants, and unfree seamen have traveled the world’s oceans at many times and places throughout human history. Across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, this bondage took divergent forms and exhibited a range of historical dynamics. In spite of this variety, the conventional Atlantic World historical paradigm has largely shaped our understanding of modernity as being defined by exploration and discovery, European dominance, global capitalism, and the transition from slavery to free labor. Not only does this perspective evince a Eurocentric emphasis on the ‘uniqueness’ of the West, but it is increasingly contested even for the Atlantic itself. This provocative study contrasts the romantic conflation of freedom and the sea with the complex labor relationships of seamen, slaves, and immigrants in the Indian Ocean during the long nineteenth century. In the process, it advances a new framework for understanding labor, bondage, and modernization.
Gopalan Balachandran du Graduate Institute de Genève présentera sa communication « Coolies to Cosmopolitans: the Global World of Indian Seafarers, c. 1870-1945 » le jeudi 12 mars, de 17h30 à 19h30.
Maison de la Recherche de l’université Paris IV-Sorbonne (28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421. Le séminaire est ouvert aux étudiants de Master et doctorat, ainsi qu’à toutes les personnes intéressées. En raison des contrôles à l’entrée du bâtiment, il est recommandé d’imprimer cette annonce et de la présenter à l’accueil.
This talk discusses some key aspects of my research on Indian seafarers in international shipping in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Numbering in the tens of thousands and sailing round the world on British, American, and other merchant ships, seafarers were India’s, and possibly the world’s, first global workers. Working on decks, and in engine rooms, kitchens, and cabins of luxury liners and tramps, in times of peace these maritime workers were an invisible but indispensable part of the world forming at the time, not only through the vessels they sailed and the cargoes and passengers these carried, but also their own lives afloat and ashore. When Britain went to war, they made a crucial difference for it between life and death, survival and starvation, victory and defeat.