Call for Papers – Durban and Cape Town as Indian Ocean Port Cities


Call for Papers

Durban and Cape Town as Indian Ocean Port Cities:  Reconsidering Southern African Studies from the Indian Ocean

A conference sponsored by the Journal of Southern African Studies and the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC)

Dates: 11-14 September 2014

Venue: Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape

Convenors: Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, Isabel Hofmeyr and Preben Kaarsholm



We are inviting interested scholars to submit abstracts for papers to be presented at the this conference, which will be workshop-like, and whose programme will include presentations from Clare Anderson, Anne Bang, Sharad Chari, Nile Green, Christopher Lee, Andrew Macdonald, Meg Samuelson, Goolam Vahed, Kerry Ward, and Nigel Worden.

A thematic outline is included below.  There are a few berths remaining for this small meeting and we are interested particularly in abstracts for presentations that address issues like smuggling and illicit trade across borders; the economy of religious commodities; relations between Durban and Cape Town; the changing functionality of ports; piracy and the policing of the ocean; links between the Indian Ocean islands and the Southern African mainland; South African-Portuguese collaboration around the control of immigration and coastal connections.

Responents to the CFA who have their abstracts accepted will be offered accommodation and hospitality for the duration of the conference, but will have to cover their own costs of travel to and from Cape Town.

Please send abstracts before 1 March 2014 by e-mail to all three convenors at the following addresses:


Thematic outline

What does the burgeoning historiography on the Indian Ocean world and oceanic studies more generally mean for southern African studies?  How for example do themes of land-based migration which are so strong in southern African studies relate to themes of maritime migration and vice versa?
This conference takes the lens of the port city as a way of approaching these questions.  As a key node in the grammar of maritime mobility and immobility, the port city provides a productive site for integrating scholarship on the Indian Ocean world and southern African studies.

Building on, but moving beyond the well-established themes of Indian Ocean scholarship as they touch on southern Africa (slavery, indenture), this conference seeks to explore a range of topics including

·         Linkages between southern African Indian Ocean port cities

·         Social histories and ethnographies of borders and port city bureaucracies

·         The « carceral archipelago » of the Indian Ocean world and its relationship to southern African ports and hinterlands

·         Port cities as strategic nodes

·         Port cities and transnational family histories

·         Port cities and non-Western cosmopolitanisms and fault-lines

·         Islamic networks and port cities

We are seeking papers that can speak both to southern African studies and Indian Ocean historiographies.