SOAS University of London

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Beyond Regions: Oceans, Networks, Trajectories

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

NB: This module will first run in 2021/22.

We live in a hyper-connected world, in the era of globalisation. But was it not always thus? Eurocentric and modernist assumptions privilege the connectedness of the contemporary as unique, created ex nihilo or at best from the foundations established through the age of European empire. This module aims to decentre Europe, to examine pre-colonial networks of globalisation avant la lettre as well as post-colonial configurations that do not pass through or rely upon the global North.

Networks of trade, religion, language, and custom are interrogated alongside themes emerging from South–South connections, ecology, migration and the productive spaces of borders. An emphasis on simultaneity, and on the artificiality of both nation-state borders and the fields delimited by "area studies", accompanies the investigation of new paradigms for the understanding of global cultural patterns and flows. And while the connections created by European empires are deprivileged, those empires' violent legacies of slavery, transportation and indenture are critically incorporated.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Analyse and evaluate material from a variety of geographical, theoretical, and intellectual positions on interconnected global cultures and trends in a reflective manner;
  2. Demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a range of contemporary and historical issues across the cultures and societies in different geographical regions of the global South;
  3. Communicate the results of their own research and reading into inter-regional and comparative approaches and issues in a persuasive and accessible manner;
  4. Critically assess historical and contemporary phenomena including empire, decolonisation, diaspora and globalisation and their relation to the cultures and societies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.


2 hours of lectures every week for 10 weeks. 

The module will involve two hours of contact time per-week. Designated as "lectures", these will incorporate class discussion time, break-out sessions, Q&A, and other interactive approaches as appropriate. It will be made clear to students that they should complete readings in advance of class, in order to incorporate the best elements of "flipped classroom" practice. All required materials will be made available in accessible formats in advance.

Method of assessment

Four Reflective log-book entries every other week (1000 words), 5% each

A poster presentation, podcast or recorded ppt, 20%

Open-book 2-day Exam 60% 

Suggested reading

  • Alpers, Edward A., The Indian Ocean in World History, Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Amrith, Sunil, Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants, Harvard University Press, 2013.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
  • Armitage, David, Alison Bashford, and Sujit Sivasundaram (eds), Oceanic Histories, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Bentley, Jerry H., Renate Bridenthal, and Kären Wigen (eds), Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges, University of Hawaii Press, 2016.
  • Bishara, Fahad Ahmad, A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780–1950, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Bose, Sugata, A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire, Harvard University Press, 2006.
  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provincializing Europe: postcolonial thought & historical difference, Princeton University Press, 2000.
  • Feener, R. Michael and Terenjit Sevea (eds), Islamic Connections: Muslim Societies in South and Southeast Asia, ISEAS, 2009.
  • Frankopan, Peter, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Bloomsbury, 2015.
  • Frankopan, Peter, The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World, Bloomsbury, 2019.
  • Gilroy, Paul, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Verso, 1993.
  • Glissant, Édouard, Poetics of Relation, University of Michigan Press, 1997 [1990].
  • Gould, Rebecca, ‘The Death of Caucasus Philology: Towards a Discipline beyond Areal Divides’, Iran and the Caucasus 17 (2013): 275–93.
  • Green, Nile, Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam, Hurst, 2014.
  • Halim, Hala, ‘Lotus, the Afro-Asian Nexus, and Global South Comparatism’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 32, 3 (2012): 563–83.
  • Ho, Engseng, The graves of Tarim: Genealogy & Mobility across the Indian Ocean, University of California Press, 2006.
  • Laffan, Michael (ed.), Belonging across the Bay of Bengal: Religious Rites, Colonial Migrations, National Rights, Bloomsbury, 2017.
  • Lee, Benjamin, ‘Critical Internationalism’, Public Culture 7 (1995): 559–92.
  • Lewis, Martin W. and Kären Wigen, The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography, University of California Press, 1997.
  • Mawani, Renisa, Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire, Duke University Press, 2018.
  • Mignolo, Walter D. and Madina V. Tlostanova, ‘Theorizing from the Borders: Shifting to a Geo- and Body-Politics of Knowledge’, European Journal of Social Theory 9, 2 (2006): 205–21.
  • Newell, Stephanie. ‘“Paracolonial” Networks: Some Speculations on Local Readerships in Colonial West Africa’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 3, 3 (2011): 336–54.
  • Pearson, Michael N., The World of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800: a Political and Economic History, Ashgate, 2003.
  • Pernau, Margrit, ‘Whither Conceptual History? From National to Entangled Histories’, Contributions to the History of Concepts 7, 1 (2012): 1–11.
  • Prashad, Vijay, Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity, Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Ricci, Ronit, Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia, University of Chicago, 2011.
  • Sheriff, Abdul and Enseng Ho (eds), The Indian Ocean: Oceanic Connections and the Creation of New Societies, Hurst, 2014.
  • Shilliam, Robbie, The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections, Bloomsbury, 2015.
  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, Explorations in Connected History, Oxford University Press, 2005.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules