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History at Sea

Route and World on an Indian Ocean Dhow

In: Matatu
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  • 1 University of Virginia, USA, Charlottesville, Virginia
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Abstract

This article invites readers to rethink the work that routes can do in world history by braiding together the spatial and historical imaginaries of an itinerant community: the dhow captains (nakhodas) of Kuwait. Through a close reading of two genres of nakhoda writings, logbooks and nautical manuals, it explores the deliberate process by which they constructed their movement across the sea. It suggests that for dhows, travel across the Indian Ocean was a voyage through world history itself—a route along a recent and distant past, entangled with an imperial present. Through these materials historians can move towards a sense of space and time that foregrounds the imaginative processes that produce the Indian Ocean as an historical arena on the part of those who spent their lives traversing it.

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