"MATERIAL CULTURES OF SITTING AND SLEEPING IN THE INDIAN OCEAN WORLD"
Elizabeth Lambourn, De Montfort University, UK
How did one “sit” on a ship in the Gulf, and why was the traveler Ibn Battuta (d.1377) so very interested in the use of tables and chairs when he dined with the Sultan of Honnavar, a port on India’s Malabar coast? How you sit or sleep, and on what, certainly expresses your social status, but above all it communicates distinctive cultural belongings and aspirations. Gordon Hewes was among the first western anthropologists to underline the cultural dimension of posture, even if South Asia and the Middle East were absent from his ‘global’ survey (1955). This lecture returns to Hewes’s insights to explore the western Indian Ocean as a site of complex encounters and fractures at the intersection of African, Arab, Persianate and Indic postural cultures. Drawing on a wide range of visual, material and textual sources, including the Cairo Genizah, this lecture examines the distinctive material cultures of sitting and sleeping across this area, their meanings, and frequent participation in larger civilizational discourses.
Elizabeth Lambourn is Reader (Associate Professor) in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at De Montfort University in the UK. Her research centres oncultural exchanges between South Asia and the Middle East before the European arrival with a particular focus on the circulation of objects, animals, and ideas. Besides authoring over twenty articles and book chapters, Elizabeth is the editor of the recent collection Legal Encounters on the Medieval Globe (ARC Humanities Press, 2017) and the research monograph Abraham’s Luggage. A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Current projects include Islam’s Forgotten Frontiers, a revisionist history of the Arab conquests incorporating the Indian Ocean world, and editorial responsibility for the medieval volume of Bloomsbury Academic’s forthcoming set The Cultural History of the Sea (2020).
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