The Indian Ocean journey of Rwandan coffee to Johannesburg

Sharad Chari, Isabel Hofmeyr, Sarah Nuttall (CISA, WiSER, NIHSS, Faculty of Humanities)
Abby Berman
The Indian Ocean journey of Rwandan coffee to Johannesburg
Melinda Barnard
Through the Office Window: Corporate culture, work, and the aesthetics of office space in
an Indian corporation in Mozambique
As capitalism speeds up and spreads out whilst entering a new phase of internationalization,
individuals are left with uncertainty with regards to what ‘place’ means and how they
should relate to it. Within the corporate sphere, this must ring true for many office workers
– especially those who have migrated to new cities or countries. Scholarly work on timespace compression has prompted anthropologists (and social theorists) to re-think ‘place’
not solely in terms of capital, but also in relation to race or gender. By looking at an Indianowned international mining corporation, which has entered Africa (specifically
Mozambique) with, in their view, the aim of functioning as a ‘local company,’ I interrogate
corporate self-conceptualisation to ask what being an Indian corporation in Africa means. I
explore their corporate offices and look at how space of the office is constructed in relation
to the outside space of the country in which it is located through an unpacking of this
construction with regards to workplace relations in the corporate office and in the lives of
office workers both within and outside of the office. We can no longer look at a single place
without considering the complex mix of the global that makes it up, that indeed collapses
into it. We are challenged to see place as a point of intersection; to not merely look at the
visible networks of global capital (distribution, production, movement, money), but also to
recognise and give importance to those invisible flows of people and networks that link
them, especially in relation to south-south partnerships and interactions. When looking at
the office space, we must acknowledge that the office space is more than a daily meeting
place – it is not static, it has no boundaries (other than its four walls), it is more complex
than a single identity and yet, in the same light, is unique in the complexities that unify it.
Lindsay Bremner
Thinking with an Indian Ocean Archipelago
Taking up the charge of this workshop - what it would take to think with emerging sociocultural processes in the Indian Ocean world, I am going to attempt to do so with one of its
central island formations, the Maldives archipelago. The Maldives was the central fold line
in the cartographic device (Folded Ocean) with which I started my work on the Indian
Ocean, but, more importantly, because it is a territory whose area is comprised 99.66% of
water, it provides an apt place to reconsider or even overturn the idea of the world as
human and terra-centric and to reconsider what it means to live on a terraqueous
globe (Steinberg 2013). Since the 1970’s, the archipelago has been used by a number of
architectural theorists (Ungers and Koolhaas 1977, Koolhaas 1995, Aureli 2011), as a
metaphoric trope for portraying architecture’s material and disciplinary distinctiveness from
the urban conditions that surround it. This is based on a Eurocentric notion of a binary
relation between land and sea, of solid, stable, rocky outcrops pitted against the dynamic
forces of the sea. The paper will undertake a critique of this from an Indian Ocean
perspective, and begin to lay out a new epistemology of the archipelago, as a more-thanhuman assemblage of tiny sea creatures, swlrling sands, water molecules, fish, winds,
waves, currents, ships, scientists, engineers, architects, politicians, fishermen and tourists,
as a template for thinking about a world characterised by radical fluidity, uncertainty and
Jamie Crosse
Capitalising on the Sun.
Lindelwa Dalamba
Hearing South African Popular Music beyond the Black Atlantic
Recent small collaborations between South African and Indian musicians have yielded new
soundscapes. These soundscapes lead us to question several 'truisms' about black
expressive cultures, not least the historic connection between black South African and
African American musical styles. The persistence of African American musics in these new
Indian Ocean collaborations also help us to reassess the dominance of black American
popular music and to graft it onto a new global imaginary that is, at the same time,
'southern' in its inflections. Rather than a research or position paper, this presentation is an
interactive exploration of how we may develop a new lexicon (ways of talking) about these
new collaborations, using one example, Mayihlome/Aahwan.
Jatin Dua
Encounters at Sea: Piracy as hospitality in the Indian Ocean?
Maritime piracy as a kidnap and ransom economy enjoyed unprecedented success in the
Western Indian Ocean from 2007-2012. Whether in the guise of hostis humani generis
(enemy of mankind) or disgruntled ex-fishermen asserting a claim of local sovereignty
against the encroachments of the global fishing industry, the specter of failed states haunts
understandings of this practice and piracy has largely been seen as the maritime ripple
effect of anarchy on land. This paper recasts piracy from this narrative of state failure and
criminality in order to understand piracy as an economy of protection. Nested within long
histories of labor and mobility on land and sea, maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean
highlights the centrality of capture and risk in producing forms of value, politics, and
sociality. Specifically, in this paper, I focus on encounters between pirates and dhows (sailing
vessel), primarily from India and Pakistan, in the watery expanses of the ocean. While global
attention was transfixed by the capture of oil tankers and large container ships, the
expansion of piracy in the Indian Ocean led to many more encounters between pirates and
motorized dhows that sail from port to port in the western Indian Ocean littoral. Specifically,
focusing on what came to be known as the practice of “mothershipping”–the use of
captured dhows to expand the spatial and temporal range of piracy—I note the worlds of
violence, threat and hospitality constructed in these moments of encounter. Instead of a
vision of the Indian Ocean that foregrounds long histories and cosmopolitan exchange,
“mothershipping” emphasizes forms of contact that are both fleeting and overwhelmed by
real and potential violence. Through an ethnographic engagement with this practice, I show
how these onboard encounters can help theorize spatial and regional futures in the Indian
Ocean and beyond.
Zoltán Glück
Piracy, Primitive Accumulation and the Production of Security Space
This paper analyzes contemporary international responses to piracy off the coast of Somalia
through the lens of the production of security space. I argue that the spatial strategies of
international naval, legal and penal responses to contain and suppress piracy can be
understood as a form of securitized spatial production which shares important
commonalities with earlier regimes of ordering, enclosing and regulating capitalist maritime
space. In a first section I look at the role of piracy law in the production of early capitalist
maritime space. Here I argue that the emergence of capitalist maritime space can be
fruitfully analyzed as a form of primitive accumulation of ocean space. In a second section I
look at the spatial logics of security space as they are currently being enacted in the Gulf of
Aden and Western Indian Ocean.
Patricia Hayes
Exclusion and inclusion in Mozambican photography, 1960s-90s
In view of the new national capitalisms that seem to mark ‘emergence’ in the Indian Ocean
region, what – if any – influence or bearing do plural socialist pasts have to do with the
present and the future? Does the hollowing out of economies during or after periods of
socialism (built on the foundering ‘modernities’ of late colonial capitalism) allow for a more
rampant capitalisme sauvage or are there other filtrations, including the symbolic capital of
solidarity ‘across the water’? This paper considers the legacies of photographic aesthetics in
Mozambique, built on late colonial critiques of exclusion and exploring (and at times
foundering on) the inclusions of socialism. What is the place of these older allegiances in
the contemporary dispensation, or are they condemned to be part of a concomitant archival
Evan Jacobs
Lost in Transit: Calculating the properties that Indian hair loses through its travel across the Indian
In using the notion of “Energies” as a rhetorical device to understand the Indian Ocean, can
we not explore the scientific properties that “energy” possesses to create new
understandings of the ocean; specifically, can we not consider energy loss? If we are to think
kinetically about the Indian Ocean – as well as the objects that move across it – then what
“energies” are lost across said ocean? In my case the question becomes: what does Indian
hair lose through its travel across the Indian Ocean? Based off my literature and preliminary
fieldwork, Indian hair is not only separated from the physical person, but as it travels to
Africa, it somehow gains a different identity. The women I've spoken to see this product as
real Indian hair, but not as coming from real Indian women; they realize the hair but fail to
see the person/s it was once attached to. Appadurai (1998) argues that the values of a
traded object diverge proportionately as the social, spatial, and temporal distance between
producers and consumers increases. Yet is this transformation a result of mere distance, or
a consequence of the path traveled? Has the Indian Ocean – as an arena of South-South
exchange – contributed to hair’s separation from person and self?
Kwanda Lande
New economic spaces and communities on the Indian Ocean littoral: The Port of Nqura,
South Africa
In this research I attempt to explore the effects of new economic spaces designed to be
catalysts into the slipstream of the global economy in the Indian Ocean littoral. This
research focuses on the Port of Ngqura and on the Coega Industrial Development Zone
Mega-project located on the periphery of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan
Municipality. The Port of Ngqura and Coega Industrial Development Zone Mega-project is a
recent project of its nature in South Africa with construction only beginning in 2002 and
being fully operational in 2009. This advantageous geographical location for capital to the
global market, coupled with comprehensive infrastructure allows for industries located
adjacent to the port to gain greater competitive advantages. Past experiences on large port
projects in South Africa, however, reveal that the quest for global connectivity has often
been at the expense of linkages with the local economy. This has reinforced opportunities
for elite capture while leaving local adjacent communities, most which are underdeveloped,
in a poverty traps. My research investigates linkages between the Port of Ngqura and Coega
Industrial Development Zone Mega-project and economic activities in adjacent Motherwell
township, to understand economic effects on businesses in Motherwell, if any exist. As part
of my initial findings, I have found that most businesses, particular spaza shops and street
trading has benefited from purchasing goods in an industrial area adjacent to the port of
Ngqura and Coega IDZ mega-project, at half price to that which they sell them. This
industrial area, located in close proximity to the project benefits from the comprehensive
infrastructure provided in the region. However, because this industrial area is located
outside the IDZ, it is excluded from other benefits of the project such as a tax incentives for
industries. I have also found that key economic activities in Motherwell link employees of
the port and the industries to daily services and goods. I have identified these linkages as
the focus of my ongoing research.
Charne Lavery
Indian Ocean Depths: Cables, Cucumbers, Consortiums
The Indian Ocean has, in literary, cultural and historical studies, been conceived as a
geographic and social space, with its monsoon-enabling continental roof and long history of
South-South connections. Ships move along its surfaces, carrying the people and goods
whose journeys mark forms of social fluidity, a supra-national and sub-global political scale,
and a non-Eurocentric geography. However, what continually recedes from view, and in fact
resists analysis, is the ocean itself. In this paper I explore the ways of examining the deep
Indian Ocean, diving below the much-tracked surface to explore three-dimensional oceanic
space. In particular, considering the discovery within the last ten years of new fishing
reserves, mineral deposits and species, presently increasing geopolitcal rivalry around
deepsea resources and deepsea ports, and incursions of the spectral undersea into the
popular imagination. In so doing I will examine a number of Indian Ocean deepsea events,
with their intersections, contradictions and ironies: the disappearance below the Indian
Ocean surface of MH370 and discourses of Southern Indian Ocean extreme isolation or
islanding; the laying and breaking of undersea internet cables; the formation of the
Southern Indian Ocean Deepsea Fishers Association (SIODFA) and its operations; and
particularly, the Chinese deepsea submersible Jiaolong’s Indian Ocean expedition last year,
which discovered rich sulfide deposits and several new species of sea cucumbers and largeeyed sharks.
Zen Marie
The Pornotropics as Alter Ego: What Happens in Mauritius stays in Mauritius.
South African Indian Identity has always existed in a kind of prickly sandwich: Between
African and Indian. Sometimes neither, sometimes both, opportunistically deciding one way,
only to turn around and go the other way. It is at times conservative and stultifying, at
others radical and creative. “Indian” as a significatory category (and lived sets of practices)
in South Africa is often grossly misunderstood and caricatured as well theoretically
impoverished and congealed as a nuanced area of study. In attempting to liquefy the
‘Indian’ in South African, I want to shift focus and read the ‘indian’ in terms of a set of
floating signifiers just east of Durban. Île Maurice will be deployed as a kind of device or lens
that will be used to look at a formation of South African Indian desire, escapism and
fantasy. Historically, especially at the height of the sugar cane trade, there were important
albeit fragile and tenuous connections between South African and Mauritius. Growing up in
Durban it was not uncommon for people to boast about their ‘Mauritian’ cousins. And
certainly the connotations of this familial relation seemed to promise an escape from
apartheid race relations and feudal indenture to a paradise of creolite, white sands,
turquoise lagoons and palm trees. This Imagining of Mauritius as floating, unmoored and
free of over-determined structure is of course flagrantly ignorant of the political, social and
economic realities that this island state precariously negotiates. It is this paradox between
the imaginary of the island paradise and the reality of historical slavery, and contemporary
tax exemption that I will explore in a photo essay and theoretical paper. While Mauritius is
the ostensible focal point, the images and text will no doubt say much more about the place
from where these fantasies are produced - South Africa. Specifically it will implicitly explore
the fantasies of an east coast ‘Indian’ South Africa.
Walter Matina
Revelation from Revolution: Indian trade and capital in the era of a Zanzibari political
consciousness, 1964 to the present.
Mamdani (1976: 65-66) states that, “(prior to the revolution), the Asian commercial
bourgeoisie became the principal intermediary in the imperialist exploitation of the colony”.
In the absence of any reference to what this Asian commercial bourgeoisie class became
after the revolution, I wish to pick up where Mamdani left off and try and understand the
present situation of Indian business people in Zanzibar, particularly those that left the island
due to the violence of the revolution. Part of my argument is that instances of political
volatility in Zanzibar from the time of the revolution in 1964 have had a particular kind of
reception by Indian business people and has shaped business strategy and refocused the
trajectory of business investment. In light of all the subsequent “times of politics”, how then
does the memory of the revolution continue to color the way in which Indian merchant
capital is structured and organized in Zanzibar in the present?
Justin Neuman
OPEC Literature: Culture Exchange and Supply Chains
At the Arab Oil Conference held in Cairo on April 13, 1959, the Saudi Arabian minister for
Petroleum, Abdullah Tariki, met with his Venezuelan counterpart, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo,
in an encounter brokered by an intrepid Czech-born American journalist, Wanda Jablonski.
By September 14, 1960 Tariki and Alfonzo had negotiated a treaty that united production
and price policy not only between Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, but also Iran, Iraq, Kuwait
and subsequently nine additional resource-rich states including Nigeria and Indonesia in the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). This essay is a thought
experiment that considers OPEC, widely known as a price-fixing cartel aimed at controlling
global oil markets, as a cultural network, indeed, perhaps the largest and most important
South-South network of the twentieth century. I begin by offering a brief history of the
relationship between economic policy and cultural publics among the OPEC nations,
underscoring the way oil fosters unexpected south-south forms of sociality,
transnationalism, and anti-colonial governmentality through the organization’s explicit
mandate to foster “South-South solidarity.” Between oil price collapses, disregard of
production quotas, and rising production in non-member nations, OPEC’s economic
influence has waned since its zenith in the 1970s, but despite the religious, geographic,
cultural, and linguistic differences between its member states, OPEC literature proves a
surprisingly productive conceptual category. By considering the work of writers like Chinua
Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, and Helon Habila alongside Abdelrahman Munif, Rajaa
Alsanea, Nawal al-Saadawi, Ayu Utami, Rufino Blanco-Fambona, José Ignacio Cabrujas, and
others, the contours of an OPEC literature begin to emerge. While the dominant modes of
colonial and post-colonial self-narration are tragedy and elegy, I suggest that OPEC literature
reflects a shift away from the moral clarity of these genres to mixed forms that better
register more ambivalent economic networks and social relations of petrocapitalism. For
our purposes at the Indian Oceans Energies conference, I focus my discussion on a literary
archive drawn from the rough arc of the Indian Ocean littoral.
Suvendrini Perera
Letters to the Angel of the Ocean
This contribution explores a series of new relations between bodies, stories and oceans
through the cartographies traced by new castaways in the Indian Ocean: refugees seeking
asylum along the Indonesian archipelago and the Australian coastline. It understands the
ocean not as an unknowable, indifferent element, variably malignant or benign, essentially
capricious, over which refugee bodies move, but as a space in which specific ontologies,
mythologies, ideologies, geo-graphies and politics are mobilised, enacted, reproduced,
contested and resignified by these moving bodies.
What energies, creative or violent, are set in play by the mobilities of new castaways in the
Indian Ocean? How do the bodies of moving people write, as they are also written by, the
oceanic spaces they traverse?
Joshua Reno
Islands Under Erasure: Wastelands and a Possible End to US Empire in the Indian Ocean
With the Guano Islands Act of 1856, the United States would begin a strategy of transoceanic occupation predicated on territorial gain through erasure. Under the Act, if outlying
islands and atolls were declared unoccupied then they could be claimed, and as long as they
remained that way the question of their sovereignty, and possible inclusion as a new state
of the union, could be deferred indefinitely. This accumulation of ostensibly uninhabited
wastelands in the Pacific and Caribbean ushered in a new era of US imperialism. It also
made possible and thinkable the “Strategic Island” policy of the Cold War, when islands
were literally erased through nuclear destruction, or became legal “black holes” beyond the
reach of federal or international courts. Characteristic in this regard is Diego Garcia, which
became a military base through the forced removal of Chagossians from 1968-1973, and has
provided the US military a strategic foothold in the Indian Ocean from which to conduct the
global War on Terror. In this paper, I do not rehash the tragic past of the Diego Garcia or its
use as a platform for US global hegemony, but consider its future, specifically, the possibility
of its further erasure and occupation as a result of climate change and environmental
catastrophe. Based on various scientific predictions and fictions, I ask to what extent rising
sea levels and plastic-laden ocean currents may yet erase and rewrite the contested
geography of the Indian Ocean. Could this transform or even spell the end of US
Empire? And what traces of marine and military life and litter might be left in its place?
Meg Samuelson
Chasing Waves and Searching for Stoke from J-Bay to G-Land: Surf Travel, Energy
Consumption and Indian Ocean Circulations
After the tsunami of 2004 many historians noted that the devastating energy force of this
massive wave moving across the ocean revealed the ongoing unity of the Indian Ocean
arena. I propose to look at less spectacular waves as energy forces that have in the past half
century invited a particular kind of circulation in the Indian Ocean, that of wave-chasing,
stoke-searching surfer travellers. As such, I aim to bring together two strands of enquiry in
my recent research: the circulation of texts and representations of human circulation in the
Indian Ocean arena; and, beach and surf cultures. With reference to the ancient “monsoon
regime”, human-environmental interaction has been central to understandings of the Indian
Ocean. I want to test what happens when this informing idea of Indian Ocean studies is
translated from trade to leisure practice. At the same time, I wish to explore what insights
Indian Ocean studies might bring to a cultural history of surfing, how surf culture and surf
travel has been reconfigured as it moved out of its traditional spheres of the Pacific and
then the Atlantic and how it is in turn reconfiguring the Indian Ocean littoral, where allinclusive surf camps and charter-boat wave chasing were pioneered. I’m interested in
thinking through the kinds of encounters between surfers and waves, locals and travellers
that are staged along these littorals, and in teasing out particular incidents such as the 2002
Bali bombings and their subsequent commemoration and surfer campaigns against a
proposed nuclear power plant at Jeffreys Bay and the establishment there of South Africa’s
first wind farm.
Kirk Sides
Holocaust in the Indian Ocean: Jewish Exile in Mauritius and the Exotic Other of Africa.
This paper traces the relatively unknown history of nearly two thousand Eastern European
Jews detained on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius for the duration of WWII. Pawns in
an intra-European geopolitical battle between Nazi Germany and Britain, the German
government forcibly sent this group to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1940, only to be
turned away from Haifa and displaced further to Mauritius, then still part of the British
Commonwealth. This paper looks at the work of two artists aboard this transport to
Mauritius, Peretz Beda Mayer and Fritz Haendel, whose collections of drawings and
woodcuts document daily life during four months aboard a ship ironically named the
“Atlantic,” as well as the subsequent four years spent in a prison camp in Mauritius. These
little known works form part of a larger narrative of Jewish exile and diaspora as well as give
a glimpse into the European imaginary and its construction of “the exotic.” Beda Mayer and
Haendel’s works struggle with the tension between representing Mauritius as an alternate
Promised Land, an “exotic paradise” in which they escaped the fate of millions of Jews on
the European continent, and the harsh realities of detainment on a tropical island. I argue
that this tension to ‘locate’ Mauritius, an otherwise remote island in the European
imagination, registers two rather unique articulations of identity. The first is an expression
of what Hannah Arendt, in Origins of Totalitarianism names “the stateless and the
minorities,” “two victim groups” who emerged “out of the liquidation of the two
multinational states of pre-war Europe, Russia and Austria-Hungary.” In capturing a certain
idea of Mauritius, as both metaphorical paradise and geopolitical refuge, Beda Mayer and
Haendel’s works give form to the previously unknown category of the “stateless,”
characteristic of the mid-twentieth century. Secondly, in giving artistic voice to what is
otherwise an aporia in Jewish, Mauritian and African history, these artists articulate a
Southern Hemispheric experience of the European Holocaust, a perspective that continues
to form much of the basis for southern African Jewish identity. I place this collection of
visual culture in dialogue first with an unexplored archive belonging to the South African
Jewish Board of Deputies, which chronicles a nearly sixty year relationship with this
particular narrative as well as with the island of Mauritius itself. Lastly, I turn to a brief close
reading of Nathacha Appanah’s Le dernier frère (2007). Appanah, an Indo-Mauritian
francophone writer, offers the first and only telling of this story from the perspective of its
impact on Mauritian identity. In doing so, I look to the ways in which this history of Jewish
exile in Mauritius demonstrates a unique transoceanic expression of identity in the Indian
Ocean world.
Jennifer Wenzel
Fueling Culture: Energy, History, Politics
As the co-editor of the forthcoming collection, Fueling Culture: Energy, History, Politics (with
Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger; Fordham UP 2016), I have been helping to set the agenda
for the energy humanities, as part of the broader emergent field of environmental
humanities. For the Indian Ocean Energies workshop, I'll be drawing out some
methodological reflections from my introduction to Fueling Culture, which opens with a
discussion of MK sabotage of energy infrastructure – beginning with the dramatic limpetmining of an electrical pylon in Durban on 16 December 1961. I'm particularly interested in
the spatial, temporal, and material aspects of reading culture and history for, through, and
with energy. My paper will consider what role the humanities can play in fostering the
critical and imaginative capacity to think, at a range of scales, between the two senses of
power – and what this methodology may have to offer Indian Ocean studies.