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Conference Call for Papers: Arts of the Indian Ocean

Published June 27, 2023

Toronto, Canada • May 2-4, 2024


Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) • Zulfikar Hirji (York University) • Ruba Kana’an (University of Toronto)

Keynote Speakers

Iftikhar Dadi (Cornell University) • Stephen Murphy (SOAS) •
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Fiction Author, Kenya) • Samira Sheikh (Vanderbilt University)


Deepali Dewan (Royal Ontario Museum) • Kajri Jain (University of Toronto) •
Pedro Machado (Indiana University) • Chantal Radimilahy (University of Antananarivo) • Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) • Nancy Um (Getty Research Institute) • Richard Vokes (University of Western Australia) • Aga Khan Museum •
Centre for South Asian Critical Humanities (University of Toronto Mississauga)

Conference Call for Papers

The ‘global turn’ in academia brings a renewed focus on the Indian Ocean and its diverse histories of mobilities and interactions. The ocean’s unique climatic systems of seasonal monsoon winds and currents and its geographic contours whose littoral shapes the shorelines of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica have over millennia facilitated and sustained movements of human and non-human animals, plants, minerals, things, and ideas.

The historical formation of the Indian Ocean’s ecologies, mobilities, and economies have been regular subjects of scholarly enquiry and research, and the focus of numerous publications, conferences, and workshops. By contrast, there has been limited attention on the study of the Indian Ocean’s distinctive materialities and artistic expressions, both past and the present, and their roles in forging connections between the region’s peoples and generating new visual and expressive cultures. Additionally, scholarship on the Indian Ocean’s material and artistic worlds is often siloed by disciplinary approach, medium of production, periodization, ethnicity, religious affiliation, nationalism, or geographical demarcation.

Arts of the Indian Ocean will bring together knowledge producers from diverse backgrounds and scholarly arenas to present and discuss research and work on the materialities and artistic expressions in the Indian Ocean world, across geographies — from eastern and southern Africa, through the Gulf and Red Sea to South and Southeast Asia and the south China Sea — as well as across temporalities — from antiquity up until the present-day. The conference aims to gather emerging and established researchers from the fields of archaeology, art history, history, architecture, museum studies, anthropology, visual studies, material culture, and fashion studies, as well as practicing artists from around the Indian Ocean region.

Arts of the Indian Ocean seeks to open up new questions on the multiple pasts, presents, and futures of the Indian Ocean through the examination of the creation, production, and circulation of material culture in a wide range of forms including the visual arts, portable objects, manuscripts and maps, ships and navigational instruments, landscape, architecture, and the built environment, textiles and dress, photography and film, as well as the digital and plastic arts.

We welcome the submission of individual papers presenting case-based object studies as well as full panel proposals that engage in one or more of the following topics: production, materials, circulation, reception, transformation, connectivity, exchange, encounter, mobility, fluidity, transmediality, pilgrimage, ecology, faith and the spiritual, intimacy, materiality, heritage, imaginaries, (dis)placement, marginialities, resistance, violence, collecting and collections, decolonization, futurity, or the sensory.

The conference will be held in a hybrid format (virtual and in-person) to facilitate the participation of colleagues from around the world. The in-person gathering will be held in Toronto, Canada. Travel scholarships may be available for graduate students and colleagues working in the Indian Ocean region. Selected papers will be included in an edited volume.

Submissions of Individual Paper Abstracts and Panel Proposals

Individual Paper Submissions should include:

  • Name, affiliation, and contact information
  • Abstract of 200-300 words
  • 1 to 2 images (related to proposed paper)
  • 100-word author bioPanel Proposal Submissions should include:
  • Names, affiliations, and contact information of panel organizer and panelists
  • Panel title and abstract of 100 words
  • Abstract of 200-300 words for each paper
  • 1 to 2 images (related to each proposed panel paper)
  • 100-word bio for each panelist

Send all Submissions by email attachment in a single pdf to: Deadline for Submissions: September 15, 2023
Notification of accepted Abstracts and Panel Proposals: October 5, 2023
Send all inquiries to:

Toronto is on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.