Monday, May 25, 2015

CFP: Ocean of Law

[Via H-Law, we have the following CFP.]

Ocean of Law: Intermixed Legal Systems across the Indian Ocean World, 1550-1950, Leiden University, December 7-9, 2015.    Keynote speakers: Prof. Paul Halliday, University of Virginia; Prof. Engseng Ho, Duke University and National University Singapore

A sixteenth-century Arabic legal text, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s Tu?fat al-Mu?taj, travelled from the Middle East, via South Asia to Southeast Asia. It was used in the Muslim legal circles as well as in the colonial courts of British India and the Dutch East Indies. This journey of the Tuhfat is only one example of, first, how legal ideas and texts travelled across borders and, second, how these ideas shaped the legal traditions and systems encountered during their journey. These moments of interaction reveal how legal cultures negotiated, influenced, and conflicted each other. They also show how information and legal systems were reconstructed. Over centuries, intermixed legal systems evolved across the Indian Ocean world creating an ocean of law.

This conference will bring together scholars working on the legal histories of the Indian Ocean World (1550-1950). Questions will be addressed such as: how were legal systems formed regionally through interactions? To what extent did law play a role in the shaping of societal, multi-cultural or maritime settlements, and of empires and colonial states in general? How did law function in the cosmopolitan communities and how did the legal systems influence each other?

Legal history in connection with the Indian Ocean world is relatively a new field. Recent work by many scholars in this area has added value to the cultural history of such regions as South, Southeast and East Asia, and the Middle East and of the workings of imperial and colonial structures. Interdisciplinary research and cooperation of scholars working on early-modern and modern history of the broader Indian Ocean world help trace back the journeys of legal ideas and to reconstruct these legal histories. This conference will provide a platform for scholars to discuss and share their work.

The existing historiographies on legal pluralism, spatialization of law, movement of ideas, information networks, and cultural brokerage serve as stepping stones for further discussions. The main themes of the conference would be:

  • Religious and secular laws: the construction, generalization and/or homogenization of laws varying from Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist to Confucianist legal notions against/with the ‘secular’ laws.
  • Colonial and non-colonial laws: colonial legal discourses and the saving/reforming enterprise of non-colonial laws.
  • Legal institutions: continuities, discontinuities and ruptures in differently functioning (pluralistic) legal institutions and their organizations.
  • Micro and macro legal systems: macro legal theories’ regional functionality, micro legal practices’ negotiations with the broader systems.
  • Relationships between theory and practice of law: texts and juridical manuals in practice, the exclusions and inclusions, selections and deletions.
We welcome a range of contributions about the cultural mechanisms of law in the Indian Ocean world. We aim this to be an interdisciplinary platform and therefore invite papers from historians, anthropologists, legal scholars and others whose research is related to the Indian Ocean legal world. We also invite papers focussing on various regions of the Indian Ocean rim from East Africa to East Asia in order to put together panels comprising of scholars working on different regions, time-periods, and themes for discussing the connections and comparisons in legal cultures. However, we intend to limit the approaches into a cultural historical perspective to understand how law played a role in the cultural formations and transformations.

Abstracts of 500 words are due by 10 June, 2015 and should be sent to As an outcome of the conference, an edited volume / special issue of a peer-reviewed journal will be published. We encourage those, who are interested in publishing, to submit their full paper of no more than 10,000 words by 1 November, 2015.

For further conference details please see the conference website, here.

Conveners: Mahmood Kooria MPhill ; Sanne Ravensbergen MA.  Advisory committee: Prof. dr. Jos Gommans, Prof. dr. Léon Buskens, Dr. Alicia Schrikker, Dr. Adriaan Bedner.  Sponsored by: Leiden University Institute for History, Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), Asian Modernities and Traditions (AMT), Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction, Leiden University Fund.

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