IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 1699: Keynote Lecture 2020: Open Space and Flexible Borders - Theorizing Maritime Space through Pre-Modern Sino-Islamic Connections (Language: English)

Thursday 9 July 2020, 13.15-14.00

Speaker:Hyunhee Park, Department of History, John Jay College, City University of New York

The maritime space in Afro-Eurasia has connected societies since ancient times through cross-border, cross-cultural contacts. It was only after around 700, however, that an entire transoceanic route from one end of the Indian Ocean to the other became the longest and most heavily traveled sea route in regular use until 1492, thanks to active participation of the people from the western and eastern sides of the maritime realm: merchants from the Middle East first sailed along this route to Guangzhou (Canton), and soon afterwards Chinese also began to directly venture into long-distance maritime trade aided by new navigational breakthroughs, such as the mariner’s compass, and they soon dominated sea trade in the eastern Indian Ocean.

This paper evaluates the importance of the Sino-Islamic maritime connections in premodern Afro-Eurasian cross-cultural contact by examining geographic understanding of the sea space accumulated by those engaged in the prosperity of maritime activities prior to the Mongol period. Such a boom led people to have a theoretical and practical understanding of the maritime realm, the open space for their activities, by sharing important information for sailing, ports, and local products, which further facilitated increased contacts of exchanging commercial goods and cultural items. Abundant sources, including geographic treatises and maps produced in both China and the Islamic world, arguably the world’s two most advanced societies between 700 and 1500, and certainly the main players in this transoceanic maritime trade, help us calibrate this phenomenon from the perspectives of the participants themselves, which provides us with a deeper understanding of the period. The paper will be attentive to, and speak to, questions of spatiality of the maritime realm regarding openness and flexibility in border issues in order to understand the spatial configuration of maritime trade, compared to land-based commercial exchange that was more bound by political borders.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Speaker: Hyunhee Park, Department of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
Introduction: Nora Berend, Faculty of History / St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge