Offering new, transdisciplinary perspectives in the study of oceanic connections, we seek to understand the often invisible populaces who took part in multifarious activities of resistance and adaptation that counterbalanced the order of centralised colonial power in the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
Long before European colonialism, several well-travelled maritime routes and trade networks had already been securely established in the Indian Ocean, connecting disparate littoral communities from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Often mediated by Muslim merchant enterprises, these commercial alliances engendered an extraordinary circulation of people, cultures and goods. European colonial networks, especially under the Portuguese and British, disrupted and reshaped these existing routes while widening maritime connectivities by directly linking the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Despite the new and expansive colonial administrative apparatus that endeavored to regulate the movement of peoples and goods, we see the unwieldy shapelessness of the oceanic seascape as a metaphor for multiple decentered modes of contesting centralised colonial systems. Various forms of resistance such as rebellion, piracy, and the development of alternative trade systems were used by several indigenous communities to oppose new structures of oceanic power. We propose to look at such practices of defiance within wider maritime connections, taking into account alternative narratives that highlight a dynamism that colonial administrations could not control. In particular we hope to explore the fluid nature of port cities, the shift in centres of production and the rapid adaptation of alternative systems of exchange with a focus on understudied communities who traversed the oceans under the colonial shadow. Offering new, transdisciplinary perspectives in the study of oceanic connections, we seek to understand the often invisible populaces who took part in multifarious activities of resistance and adaptation that counterbalanced the order of centralised colonial power.