- Associate Professor, Department of History
- B.A. at University of Cape Town
- D. Phil. at University of London
|Ballantine Hall, Rm. 832|
Having been born and raised in Cape Town (South Africa), I was influenced by its histories of anti-apartheid struggle and especially its connections to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans that developed with greater intensity from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The intertwined pasts of Indian Ocean areas and regions in particular stimulated the development of my intellectual interests as an academic, resulting in my training as a world and global historian of the connections across this oceanic space between Africa and South Asia. In particular, I research and write about the intersecting histories of western India and southeastern Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and about how these histories were mediated by particular social and commercial networks of South Asian merchant groups. Central to my research interests have been identifying how local, self-sustaining capitalists structured exchange fuelled by reciprocal consumer demand across the western reaches of the ocean at a time, from the 1750s, of growing and competing imperial interests for control over the global commerce of the Indian Ocean.
My first book, Ocean of Trade thus examined the multiple dynamics of Vāniyās, South Asian merchants with network headquarters in Diu and Daman in Gujarat in western India, in connecting local and regional commercial systems in South Asia, and East and Southeast Africa with rapidly intensifying global systems of material, social and cultural exchange from the mid-eighteenth to the first half of the nineteenth centuries. The book argued that the entanglements of peoples in these two regions deepened during these years and was mediated in critical ways by Vāniyās as they reoriented and consolidated new commercial frontiers along the ocean’s southwest littoral and interior. This was as much a reflection of the self-sustaining capacity of these networks as it was of the integrated nature of consumer markets on both sides of the Indian Ocean that resulted in exchanges of large shipments of South Asian cotton cloths, and African slaves and ivory.
I am currently involved in a major cross-disciplinary international research project (comprised of scholars from the United States, Japan and Australia) on the histories of the pearl fisheries of the Indian Ocean. Pearling has long been an important maritime and commercial activity for societies from the Gulf and Red Sea to the Indonesian and South China Sea waters and the project combines an object- and commodity-based approach with environmental, historical, anthropological and ethnographic research to uncover the linkages between the ocean’s pearling pasts.
Currently, I am also at work on a second book project on the history of eucalyptus within the Portuguese Empire’s Atlantic and Indian Ocean spheres. I am interested especially in the influence of colonial forestry officials in developing and promoting eucalypt growing as an imperial and colonial strategy with far-reaching commercial, industrial and environmental effects.
- University of Pittsburgh, World History Center, Visiting Scholar (2011-12
- Trustees Teaching Award (2012)
- Center for the Study of History and Memory, Conference Grant (2012)
- College Arts and Humanities Institute, Conference Grant (2013; 2015)
- Office of the Vice-President for International Affairs, Language Learning Grant (2014)
- College Arts and Humanities Institute, Research Travel Grant (2014
- Mellon Innovating International Research, Teaching and Collaboration Award (2015)
- Ostrom Grants Program Award (2015)
- Global and Indian Ocean History
- Commodity Histories
- Merchant and Commercial Networks
- Oceanic Perspectives and Frameworks
- Comparative and Connected Slaveries
- South Asian and African History
Courses Recently Taught
• H233, Kickin’ It! Soccer, Race, Empire, Nation and the Making of the Modern Game (Spring 2016)
• H102, The World in the Twentieth Century II (Spring 2016)
• H699, Globalizing the Past: History and the Global ‘Turn’ (Fall 2015)
• H799, The Ocean: Trans-regional Histories, Routes and Discourses (Spring 2015)
• W300, Slavery & Unfreedom in World History (Fall 2014)
• H591, Teaching World History (Fall 2014)
• J300, Cradle of Globalization? History, Economy, Society and Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (Fall 2013)
Ocean of Trade: South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean, c.1750-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
“Cloths of a New Fashion: Indian Ocean Networks of Exchange and Cloth Zones of Contact in Africa and India in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” in How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850, eds. Tirthankar Roy, Om Prakash, Kaoru Sugihara and Giorgio Riello (Brill, 2009)
“Awash in a Sea of Cloth: Gujarat, Africa and the western Indian Ocean, 1300 – 1800,” in The Spinning World: A Global History of Cotton Textiles, 1200-1850, eds. Prasannan Parthasarathi and Giorgio Riello (Oxford University Press, 2009).
“A Forgotten Corner of the Indian Ocean: Gujarati Merchants, Portuguese India and the Mozambique Slave Trade, c. 1730-1830,” in The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, ed. Gwyn Campbell (Routledge, 2004)