‘Circulation and Rupture:
The Bay of Bengal as a South Asian region’
Prof. Sunil Amrith,
The Bay of Bengal is a meaningful historical region—at particular moments, and especially between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, its coasts were as closely linked to each other as to the heartlands of the nation-states they ultimately formed part of. This lecture focuses on the period of the most intensive connectedness in the Bay of Bengal region, in the 1920s and 1930s. It will suggest that the region was linked neither by a single language, nor by political integration, though most of it was within the British Empire; rather, it was a region defined by mobility and circulation—the movement of people, ideas, and capital. And the core problem the speaker seeks to address is why this region, so intensively connected by the 1920s, collapsed so rapidly, and to such an extent that it had largely “disappeared” from public and scholarly consciousness by the 1960s. The lecture concludes by reflecting on the more recent revival of connections across the Bay, and asks to what extent these new links are rooted in the region’s history.
Dr. Sunil Amrith is Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies and Professor of History at Harvard University. From 2006 to 2015, he taught at Birkbeck College, at the University of London. His books include Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants (2013), and Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia (2011). He is currently working on the environmental history of water in India.