Professor M.N. Pearson visits TANAP

On Monday September 6th Professor Michael N. Pearson from Australia visited Leiden to give a lecture to the TANAP PhD research group.

Professor Pearson brought excellent weather with him. After a miserable rainy August, the first week of September was exceptionally sunny and it was nice to talk with him. Professor Om Prakash of the Delhi School of Economics and Dr. Willem Remmelink of the Japan Netherlands Institute in Tokyo were also present that day - a good opportunity to discuss the state of academic affairs in general, and (after a few glasses of good Spanish wine) also hear the latest information about colleagues elsewhere. Historians are curious people, after all, and for global historians the world is not all that big…

Professor Pearson explained the basic concepts of his latest book The Indian Ocean (New York and London: Routledge, 2003 xi + 337 pp. ISBN 0-415-21489-0. He described the Indian Ocean as 'the most difficult ocean to study' given the richness of peoples, cultures, religion, languages, not to forget the enormous space from the Swahili coast to Southeast Asia. He pointed at the connections between one part of the Indian Ocean and the others. Inspired by Horden and Purcell's The Corrupting Sea (2000), Pearson made a distinction between the history of the Indian Ocean and the history in the Indian Ocean. The first history concerns an ocean-wide comparisons of regional and local histories, while the second one concerns the matters coming from outside its geographical boundaries. As such, one should look from the sea to the land, in particular the littoral.

It is hoped that Professor Pearson will continue to debate his insights with the TANAP PhD researchers. One of them, Ghulam Nadri, held an interview with Professor Pearson that will be published in Itinerario 2004:3 (scheduled to appear in December). I also would like to mention Markus Vink's review of The Indian Ocean in Itinerario 2004:1, 92-95. In the next issue of Itinerario 2004:2 (in print) Markus Vink publishes a long article on the Indian Ocean.

left to right: Prof. Om Prakash (India), Prof. Leonard Blussé (Netherlands), Prof. Michael Pearson (Australia)

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