Participants from over 30 leading universities and institutions from around the world are taking part in Georgetown University in Qatar’s (GU-Q) Annual Faculty Conference.
The multidisciplinary gathering of experts is spending three days exploring ‘Oceanic Circularities: The Indian Ocean in the Modern World’, on the diverse cultural, economic and historical ties between the Gulf region, Asia and Africa. The conference concludes tomorrow.
Under the theme of ‘circularities’ that trace the mobile connections between people and places, the panellists will exchange knowledge on the boundaries and perceptions of the Indian Ocean as a region, the impact of postcolonial state building on marginalised populations, identity formation for diaspora communities, Gulf societies, Islam and lineage groups, and ecological connections through a study of pearl diving and cookbooks as important records that track available fish species, among other diverse topics, GU-Q has said in a statement.
The university hosts a faculty research conference every year, but this is the first time the annual event has merged with the school’s Indian Ocean Working Group, a collaborative research initiative between GU-Q and local and global scholars, who work to re-evaluate the history of a region that has historically been under-documented.
Dr Uday Chandra, conference co-organiser and working group member, says the Indian Ocean is an important field of study because of its geographic scale, connecting a diverse array of cultures and histories.
“Traditional histories of this vast region are often viewed through a European or Western perspective. Through this conference, and the working group, we want to re-evaluate many of those assumptions through a multidisciplinary lens, as well as to document areas that have been overlooked.”
With the aim of encouraging the next generation of scholars, conference organisers also invited five GU-Q students and alumni researchers to present their research to the academic community.
Third-year GU-Q student Irene Promodh is presenting her paper on the role and impact of radio programming on the Malayali community in Qatar, an ethnic group originating from the present-day state of Kerala in India.
“It was fascinating to study the way sound can help establish territory and a sense of identity,” she explained, noting that the Qatar-backed radio programming in question was only introduced two years ago, when transmission of other options ended with the blockade.
Prior to the annual faculty conference, the working group has hosted a number of symposiums and other events on the Indian Ocean rim since the group’s foundation by GU-Q and Northwestern University in Qatar faculty.
The group also includes participation from Qatar University, the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and other international members, and covers a region extending from the Red Sea to the African continent, the Middle East, the Asian subcontinent and the Far East.
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