Led by GU-Q faculty Rogaia Abusharaf, Amira Sonbol, Phoebe Musandu, and Uday Chandra, the group hosts an annual symposium, convenes a monthly reading group of faculty and students, offers classes, and works on special projects that fill the gaps in current scholarship on the Indian Ocean, particularly as it relates to the Gulf and East Africa.
“The goal is really to make an impact, to elucidate some of the issues that are ignored in the discussion of the Indian Ocean,” says Abusharaf. “The issue of these Gulf connectivities with Africa needs to be addressed more systematically in terms of the population, migration, of the circularities of people, ideas, and objects.”
Annual Symposium in Qatar
Each year since 2014, the group has convened experts from Georgetown's Qatar campus, Georgetown’s Washington, DC, campus, and other institutions in the Middle East and North and East Africa to explore a different theme in Indian Ocean scholarship.
Participants at the first symposium recognized that the pattern of movement around the Indian Ocean is much richer and more reciprocal than current research suggests. The group named this phenomenon “circularities,” and it has animated their work since.
“Circularities means the movement of people, of goods, of ideas, of humanity,” says Sonbol.
Uday Chandra, assistant professor at GU-Q and coordinator of the most recent annual symposium, recognizes the comparative advantage cross-campus collaboration gives Georgetown in advancing interdisciplinary research on this topic. He says,
Our location in Doha presents us a unique opportunity to gain a practical immersion in the sociocultural dynamics of this vast oceanic region.
“Together, Main Campus and GU-Q combine to offer a uniquely rich insight into the Indian Ocean,” says Cóilín Parsons, associate professor in the Department of English in the College and a member of the working group. Parsons will lead a bi-local seminar for students in Qatar and DC in the fall 2019 semester.
The India Initiative, a university-level platform for research, teaching, and dialogue around India and world affairs, has also collaborated with experts at GU-Q, recently convening a two-day conference comprising scholars from Georgetown's DC and Qatar campuses and other institutions. Participants discussed nation-building, nationalism, democracy, and international relations in the region.
“Through its considerable interdisciplinary faculty expertise, Georgetown University is uniquely positioned to lead policy-relevant scholarly inquiry into various aspects of the Indian Ocean region, and the India Initiative is proud to support the efforts of our colleagues in Doha and DC to do so,” says Irfan Nooruddin, director of the India Initiative and Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Indian Politics in the School of Foreign Service.