Report: Migrations, Crossings, Unintended Destinations: Ecological Transfers across the Indian Ocean 1850-1920

Workshop 11.10.2018 – 12.10.2018

Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, Germany

Conveners: Ulrike Kirchberger (Kassel University), Christof Mauch (RCC)

In the age of high imperialism, thousands of species of plants and animals were transferred between Australia, Asia, and Africa. Some of them were exchanged deliberately for economic, scientific, or aesthetic reasons. European settlers, for example, transported cattle, horses, and sheep between South Africa, Asia, and Australia; camels were exported from Northern India to Australia; and exotic birds from South Asia, such as, for example, the Myna bird, were taken to Australia and South Africa. Other species traveled between the continents accidentally, as stowaways. Whether intentional or not, these transfers changed ecologies and livelihoods on the three continents forever. This workshop aims to uncover the exchanges that have modified African, Asian, and Australian environments. Integrating both human and nonhuman agency in our understanding of ecological networks, we will ask in our workshop how different participants in the transfers related to each other and how these relationships changed in the context of ecological transfers. In our workshop we will examine in particular how Europeans built on non-European traditions of species transfer, and we will investigate where colonial exchanges met with opposition. Moreover, we will track the extent to which species transfers across the Indian Ocean led to a greater awareness of ecological imbalances, environmental destruction, and climate change. We aim to reassess the significance of the networks and transfers across the Indian Ocean in the broader context of imperial and global relations. By these means we hope to develop an agenda that integrates the transfer processes between the three continents into a transoceanic environmental history.

You can read the full conference report on the RCC blog here.


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