Event — Online Symposium

Indian Ocean and epigraphy

This symposium explores the common ground between epigraphy and Indian Ocean studies. On the basis of recently published and ongoing research, specialists of the diverse epigraphic traditions of the Indian Ocean will reflect on the potential to exchange ideas and share methods across regional and disciplinary boundaries.

This symposium will be held online via Zoom from 10:00 to 13:00 Amsterdam Time (CET).

The Symposium

Epigraphy and Indian Ocean Studies are both vibrant fields, yet their scholars are not always aware of each other's work. Epigraphic records have long attracted the interest of specialists in diverse fields, whereas the oceanic littoral gained the attention of scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds more recently. Recent developments in both arenas can inform each other and help us understand the connections and mobilities of different communities through manuscripts, archival documents, ethnographic fieldwork, and oral traditions. The Indian Ocean rim has historically produced numerous inscriptions that can be considered truly transregional, multilingual, multicentric, and multicultural in their contents and style, and truly reflective of the major concerns of Indian Ocean specialists. The Ezana Stele in Ge'ez, Sabaean, and Greek from fourth-century Axum (Ethiopia), the Kollam Copper Plates in Malayalam, Hebrew, Kufic, and Pahlavi scripts from ninth-century Malabar (India), the Tamil-Chinese inscription from Quanzhou (China) in the thirteenth century, or the Persian-Chinese-Tamil inscription from fifteenth-century Galle (Sri Lanka) are some telling examples.

In this symposium, the Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies brings together a number of foremost experts in epigraphy and Indian Ocean studies to start a conversation on the potentially shared ground between these fields of interest. On the basis of their groundbreaking research, they will highlight individual case studies and present their views on epigraphy, Indian Ocean Studies, and how these fields can enrich each other through transdisciplinary exchanges. We are motivated to start this discussion in the context of a recent volume, Social Worlds of Premodern Transactions: Perspectives from Indian Epigraphy and History, edited by Mekhola Gomes, Digvijay Kumar Singh and Meera Visvanathan. Most contributors to this volume share a focus on premodern inscriptions in their transregional, multilingual, and multicultural contexts, which we believe provides a solid starting point to bring epigraphy and the Indian Ocean together.

The Speakers

Meera Visvanathan, Shiv Nadar University, India

Arlo Griffiths, École française d'Extrême-Orient, France

Ranabir Chakravarti, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Elizabeth Lambourn, De Montfort University, UK

Mekhola Gomes, Amherst College, USA

Digvijay Singh, Cotton University, India


This symposium is organised by the Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies (Leiden University, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and IIAS).


Please register by sending us your contact information via the registration form on this page. Two days before the start of the symposium, we will get in touch with you and provide you with access information and other necessary details.

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