The Indian Ocean World Podcast

The Indian Ocean World Podcast seeks to educate and inform its listeners on topics concerning the relationship between humans and the environment throughout the history of the Indian Ocean World. Based out of the Indian Ocean World Centre, a research centre affiliated with McGill University’s Department of History and Classical Studies, under the direction of Dr. Gwyn Campbell, the Indian Ocean World Podcast is part of the Appraising Risk Partnership, an international collaboration of scholars and researchers dedicated to exploring the critical role of climatic crises in the past and future of the Indian Ocean World. With generous support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the partnership seeks to create a comprehensive spatial and temporal database of human-environment interaction and interdependence during periods of climatic change.

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2 days ago

Dr. Manikarnika Dutta, a Research Associate in the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford, joins Dr. Julie Babin to discuss her research into the intersection of medical, colonial, and maritime history in nineteenth-century Calcutta. This research began with a doctoral thesis completed in 2019, but today we focus on the peer-reviewed paper, "Cholera, British seamen and maritime anxieties in Calcutta, c.1830s-1890s." Dr. Dutta holds an MA in Modern History from the University of Calcutta, as well as an MSc in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. Her research examines the interplay of medicine, especially public health regimes, and race in colonial India. Her work has been awarded the Taniguchi Medal (2018) and the William Bynum Essay Prize (2021). Links: Article Link: Chapter Link: University Profile: Twitter: @DManikarnika The Indian Ocean World Podcast is hosted by Dr. Philip Gooding and Dr. Julie Babin, produced by Sam Gleave Riemann, and published under the SSHRC-funded Partnership “Appraising Risk, Past and Present.”

Wednesday Sep 21, 2022

Dr. Anna Winterbottom (McGill) and Prof. Victoria Dickenson (McGill) join Dr. Philip Gooding (IOWC, McGill) to discuss the Gwillim Project, a multinational research project exploring the remarkable artistic and epistolary output of two English sisters, Mary Symonds and Elizabeth Gwillim, living in early-nineteenth-century Madras. Elizabeth Gwillim’s high-quality, to-scale natural history drawings of birds, fish, and flowers are held in the Blacker Wood Natural History Collection at the McGill Library. Along with Mary’s paintings and the sisters’ correspondence, these pictures throw light not just on the history of natural history, Prof. Dickenson’s area of expertise, but on all facets of the life and environment of Southern India at the time. Dr. Winterbottom contextualizes the sister's work with insights from her research into the East India Company European settlements around the Indian Ocean. Prof. Victoria Dickenson is Professor of Practice, Rare Books and Special Collections at the McGill Library. She serves as Principal Investigator for the Gwillim Project. Dr. Anna Winterbottom serves as Research Associate and Project Manager for the Gwillim Project. For more information on the Gwillim Project, see: The Indian Ocean World Podcast is hosted by Dr. Philip Gooding and Dr. Julie Babin, produced by Sam Gleave Riemann, and published under the SSHRC-funded Partnership "Appraising Risk, Past and Present."

Friday Mar 25, 2022

What does it mean when we talk about micro-financing the rural economy? And how does micro-financing apply to Cambodia? These questions are explored by Professor W. Nathan Green, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore.  Prof. Green’s research critically examines the political ecologies of agrarian finance and infrastructure in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Cambodia. By combining his economic, geographical, and ethnographic study of rural Cambodia, Prof. Green paints us a vivid picture of the development of Cambodian loan and borrowing structures, while delving into the risks associated with having one’s land in collateral. Since the 1980s, micro-financing has been essential to Cambodia’s rise out of the economic and humanitarian turmoil inflicted by the Pol Pot regime. But, as climate change continues to impact the stability of Cambodia and the rest of the world, vulnerabilities amongst those dwelling in this ‘borrowers’ economy have become increasingly noticeable. As is stated by Prof. Green, vulnerability to climate change goes beyond the natural environment to encapsulate structural drivers of vulnerability like political empowerment, the ability to make decisions over one’s own land, entitlements to resources, etc. Rising household indebtedness in Cambodia due to its micro-financing scheme is a major driver of household vulnerability. To learn more about Prof Green, check out his academic page here: This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC; English Common Law, University of Ottawa) and Philip Gooding (postdoctoral fellow, IOWC, McGill).

Wednesday Feb 16, 2022

In this podcast, Dr. Nuno Grancho, a postdoctoral fellow and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen, discusses his research into the architecture of the island city of Diu, Gujarat, West India. Focussing on the five centuries of Diu’s Portuguese occupation (1514-1961) his work demonstrates the complex nature of overlap between spatial and functional categories in the colonial context. Dr. Grancho approaches Diu as a modern artefact of study, with his research extended beyond the tangible aspects of the city’s structure. In doing so, he argues that the history and theory of architecture and urbanism combined with the history and theory of the collision of Portuguese and West Indian cultures have created an exceptional urban architectural environment. This exceptionalism, as remarked by Dr. Grancho, is marked by the fact that “never again was there a place like Diu in the history of European colonial presence in India, in the history of colonial identity in India, and most of all, in the history of European colonial cities in India.” By comparing Diu’s structure and organization to other European settlements (English, Dutch, Danish, and French), Dr. Grancho’s research contributes to the historiography of imperial architecture and architectural history. Specifically, it highlights the ethnic, racial, social, and spatial divide between Indigenous and European colonial settlements. With regards to the preservation of the rich history within the parameter of Diu’s urban environment, Dr. Grancho maintains that a balance must be found between what is heritage and what is vernacular, and contemporary building techniques of today must be used to preserve the authenticity of this exceptional city. This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC) and  Philip Gooding (postdoctoral fellow, IOWC, McGill).

Tuesday Jan 11, 2022

The IOWC Podcast team had the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Hasan H. Karrar, an Associate Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (“LUMS,” Lahore, Pakistan) who specializes in modern Chinese and Central Asian history and political economy. In this podcast, Dr. Karrar delves into his recent working paper entitled “The Indus Delta Between Past and Future: Precarious Livelihoods and Neoliberal Imaginaries in a Parched Coastal Belt,” which was published in the 5th volume of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS). Predominantly located in Pakistan, the Indus delta, at the terminus of the Indus River system, is presently home to 300,000 residents. Over the last century, upriver hydrology has reduced the flow of water through the river. The result of continuous hydrological manipulation is salination and seawater incursion that has led to the loss of arable land – reducing agriculture as a sustainable livelihood. This has created precarious livelihoods whereby people are forced either into the informal fishing sector, or to migrate, representing a stark departure from earlier times when agriculture was the primary vocation.   Dr. Karrar asks what the future holds for the delta region of Pakistan? What solutions might be proposed to these climate-related roadblocks? One solution is utilizing Chinese investment in Pakistan to reduce the environmental impact on the region. This approach moreover presents a future Pakistan that is connected to markets in Asia through its ports, an economic design that has been propagated in Pakistan for decades. However, as is argued by Dr. Karrar, the fixation on the fantastical futures of the Pakistani state, while encouraging investment and economic longevity, does not assist in remedying the problems of a delta-based population stuck in an uncertain present. This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Tuesday Jan 04, 2022

In this podcast, our host Philip Gooding interviews Professor Kaustubh Mani Sengupta (Bankura University, West Bengal, India) on his recent article published in the fifth volume of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS), entitled “William Tolly and His Canal: Navigating Calcutta in the Late-Eighteenth Century.” Specifically, Prof. Sengupta elaborates on the making of one particularly arduous canal in Calcutta, connecting the port city of Bengal with the eastern districts of the province for better trade and communication. This massive undertaking, headed by a serving officer of the East India Company (EIC), Major Tolly, revealed the material, political, and economic complexities of industrialization in early British India. In addition to discussing the general inefficiency of the Company and its young British servants, Prof. Sengupta advances the environmental history of the region by discussing how canal-building introduced significant shifts in how surrounding populations interacted with their natural environment. Going forward, Prof. Sengupta hopes to apply an enhanced environmental perspective to his ongoing research on Calcutta industrialization, water systems, and sanitation epidemics. Link to article: This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).    

Monday Nov 15, 2021

Where does your honey come from? Who produces it and who benefits from its consumption? In this podcast, Dr. Denise Matias (Associate Researcher, Centre for Development Research, University of Bonn) discusses her research into Asian honeybee farming. While predominantly focussing on indigenous practices of honey cultivation in the forests of the Palawan Islands, the Philippines, the podcast sheds awareness on how European standards of wild honey is putting Asian honey at a significant disadvantage in global trade and consumption. The frequent exclusion of Asian honey from Westernized honey markets has been addressed by researchers and NGOs. However, there has been little government initiative to rectify the gap. As the children of Indigenous honeybee farmers in the Palawan islands continue to be educated away from their traditional lands, their knowledge of traditional honey production dwindles. Reductions in Indigenous knowledge of honey cultivation, combined with the erratic floods and droughts brought forward by climate change, are rapidly shortening the lifespan of the Asian honeybee, as well as reducing the conjugal social-ecological relationship between honeybee farmers and the bees. This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Tuesday Oct 12, 2021

Dr. Mikko Toivanen (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) joins us to discuss his research on colonial tourism and its relationship with the environment throughout various Southeast and South Asian colonies in the 19th century. While frequently considered through a historical, economic or scientific lens, these colonial strongholds were also developed as havens of leisure tourism for travelling Europeans. By studying British and Dutch imperial travel logs, Dr. Toivanen demonstrates how colonial exploits transformed the natural environments in Ceylon, Java, and the Strait Settlement. He argues that these transformations were largely rooted in imperial competition to develop the most appealing travel destination for the European constituency. Competitive botany, for example, stimulated the construction of fantastical botanical gardens in colonial capitals, providing travellers with a highly exclusive and controlled tropical environment that provided attractive venues for events, performances, rest, and observation. Perhaps most influential in his work is Dr. Toivanen’s argument that a circuit of transcolonial leisure-travel was developed around the mid-19th century. From the nature of this transcolonial circuit emerged a hierarchy of travel destinations, with Dutch and British invalid travellers seeking out specific colonial strongholds for vacation based on the desirability of their climate. This contradicts the previous belief that early colonial tourism had been restricted to the respective colonies of each European imperialist power. This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Wednesday Sep 29, 2021

In this podcast, the IOWC podcast team had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Slack, a PhD student studying under the McGill University Geography Department. Throughout the conversation, Patrick discusses his ongoing research (MA and PhD) into the role that black cardamom plays in upland, ethnic minority semi-subsistence livelihoods in the western Sino-Vietnamese borderlands. Black cardamom – a medicinal and culinary non-timber forest product – was previously touted as a sustainable rural development livelihood strategy. It provided reliable income to subsidize the lives of borderland farmers for decades, permitting stability, self-determination, and independence among farmers in Vietnam’s northern Lao Cai province. However, over the past decade, the cultivation of black cardamom has been threatened by two major catalysts: 1) extreme weather events which have decimated harvests; and 2) the increasing regulations that centralized governments have been imposing on highland forests and cardamom cultivation within them.  Patrick explores both threats in this podcast. He goes into detail on how he became interested in the crop as a research topic, how ethnic minorities of northern Vietnam are treated by mainstream society, how regulations on the cultivation of black cardamom – also seen as the regulation of ethnically and culturally diverse behaviours – are impacting the ethnic minority populations subsisting off of the crop in the borderlands, as well as how gender roles, climate change, and the Covid-19 pandemic come into play when discussing the continuance of the crop throughout northern highland society. Patrick further explains his hopes for his upcoming PhD research, which will focus on both the Lao Cai province and the west-adjacent province of Lai Chau. The ethnographic study that Patrick intends to produce throughout his doctoral degree will be the first to explore how borderland ethnic minority farmers in upland northern Vietnam have navigated modernity and state interventionism over the past century. This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Thursday Sep 02, 2021

In this podcast, Prof. Ling Zhang (Boston College, USA) unravels the multi-layered and multi-faceted impact of a major climatic anomaly in northern Song China in the 11th-century shift of the Yellow River's course north to the Hebei province (1048-1128 CE). She tells us her initial impressions of northern China as a desolate region compared to the prosperous south made her question a crucial and under-explored issue of the Tang-Song transition in China during the medieval economic boom (7th-13th centuries): In a time when China experienced an economic revolution, what happened to northern China? Why did it fall behind? Prof. Zhang's research to answer this question confronted her with the devastating shift of the Yellow River to Hebei (1048CE), and the long-term underbelly of socio-economic and enviro-political processes that preceded and followed the river's shift to Hebei. The Song state prioritised the south, the seat of the empire, against the north to manage the Yellow River's floods - a phenomenon that had been precluded by warmer temperatures and more humidity in the preceding two centuries to facilitate massive agricultural expansion in northern China. This had resulted in long-term soil erosion and increased sedimentation in the Yellow River which, coupled with the state's hydraulic projects, produced the disaster of 1048 CE. If its instant impact had been unexpectedly shocking to Hebei, the longue durée of this climatic anomaly meant a slow death for northern China. As farming became increasingly difficult due to rapidly eroding silt and the river's repetitive floods in the north, farmers could not sustain their previous sedentary lifestyle in the face of decreasing food security and either migrated as refugees or turned to banditry. The government, in its bid to tackle famine among the disaster refugees, turned to conscripting adult males into the army and encouraged richer sections of the society to adopt refugees, in effect leading to famine-induced bondage of women and children. When conscripted soldiers deserted to join bandits in north China, the impact of a climatic crisis eventually snowballed into political and moral bankruptcy for the state in the north. The Song state donned an interventionist avatar and bought foodstuff from other parts to feed the consumer market in north China. Although this boosted production and had a positive economic impact as a corollary, it was founded on the enviro-economic collapse of northern China - a divergence which, Zhang argues, helps us rethink the question of Tang-Song transition and a medieval economic revolution in China. Finally, Prof. Ling Zhang concludes that in dealing with contemporary climate change, humans should learn from their past mistakes, when their profound arrogance in the belief of providing a single solution to conquer nature has repeatedly foundered. In so doing, Prof. Zhang argues in favour of a more inclusive model of knowledge that combines the diversity of local knowledge of environment(s) with social science-based, humanistic-and-eco systematic understandings of environmental issues.   This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).  


Indian Ocean World Centre

The Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC) is a research centre at McGill University studying the history, economy, and cultures of the lands and peoples of the Indian Ocean world – from China to Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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