Re-Imagining South Indian Geography: A Maritime Perspective

Syed Mohammed Faisal//Anthropology//4th of March 2015//3-4pm//Arts C133


By mapping the kinship and business connections on the South Western-Coast of South Asia with Sri Lanka, South East Asia and the Middle East I will explore the specific social and commercial form of this region. I will dwell upon the forms of marriage that made the sedentary land holding communities of wife givers and the maritime business communities of the Arab-Persian world of wife-seekers to be able to connect in kinship which helped reproduce both maritime business and the matrilineal kinship forms. I concur that natural barriers created by Western Ghats are crucial to this social formation.

In the second part of the presentation I will try and explicate possible factors for the waning of maritime-business and matrilineal-kinship networks in last 200 years. The road and rail networks built by British empire which surmounted the Western Ghats and the continuation of these technical- political interventions by the post-colonial Indian state have had a considerable impact on these kinship forms. I will conclude with some reflections on the cosmopolitan character of the region generated by the pre-colonial maritime exchange and a different form of cosmopolitan attitude which connects this region more to inland parts of India today.


Syed Mohammed Faisal is doctoral student at the department of Anthropology working on the commercial and kinship exchange on the Coast of Karnataka, India. He is broadly interested in the interaction of social, material and technical forms of life in this region.

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