Lessons from Shalivahana to Shivaji: 2000 years of Trade and Partnership between India and East Africa
Notre Dame International is introducing a new virtual lecture series focused on Notre Dame’s research in South Asia. The Research Engagement and Academic Learning (REAL) lectures will be hosted by the Mumbai Global Center.
The first REAL lecture series features Rahul Oka, research associate professor of Global Affairs and Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. An economic anthropologist, his work focuses on the the anthropology of urbanism, social network analysis, the development of complex socioeconomic systems, applications of agent-based simulation modeling techniques to anthropology, and archaeometry/materials analysis.
PLEASE NOTE: Indicated event times are Eastern Standard Time (5:30pm - 7:00pm IST).
High volume, direct and sustained intercontinental trade between Asia, Africa and Europe first emerged in the Early Common Era, c. 200 bce–400 ce. It is in this period that we encounter Greek merchants traveling to eastern African coastal entrepots of Menouthias, Azania and the 'trading emporium’ of Rhapta (Pemba or Mafia, Tanzania), and Chinese travellers writing about Africans in India. Over the next 17 centuries, the port-cities of the coast emerged as important destinations for traders from South Asia and the Middle East/North Africa, where risk-taking entrepreneurs even in the seventh century ce ‘could realize profits of more than 700%’ on long-distance trading ventures. The role of India in this interaction is often minimised, with Indians seen as occasional traders. The general narrative is that the primary source of religious, cultural and economic influences on eastern Africa prior to 1500 ce was the Middle East and North Africa. After 1500, this attention shifted to Omanis and Europeans as primary external influences.
This lecture will focus on Dr. Oka's belief that India was not peripheral; rather, that Indian traders played crucial roles in both the making and (especially, inadvertently) the unmaking/decline of the Swahili port-cities. He will emphasize the larger BIDIRECTIONAL nature of earlier exchange of ideas, goods and people between India and East Africa, and argue that by remembering the lessons from our past, we could build similarly BIDIRECTIONAL partnerships between India, Kenya, and other regions of East Africa for the future.