Methods, Materials, and Matrices: Feminist Currents in Indian Ocean Worlds

Kelsey McFaul
UC Santa Cruz

Founded on a theoretical commitment to decenter the Global North and its forms of knowledge, Indian Ocean studies nevertheless foregrounds the ocean as an object of historic, political, and economic study. Taking up and complicating a scholarship characterized by its masculinist language, the Feminist Indian Ocean Working Group articulates a range of feminist approaches to the Indian Ocean region that put embodied subjects back into a framework that, while deconstructing “nation” and “society,” still perpetuates object-based categories of commodities and histories of empire. The “Methods, Materials and Matrices” working group intervenes in this discourse by bringing together scholars across the arts, humanities, and social sciences to foreground the region’s subjectivities, performativities, and embodied experiences, thereby expanding our methods, incorporating new materials, and envisioning new productive matrices. Feminist approaches allow us to resituate dominant categories in Indian Ocean studies — such as ethnography, history, economy, and culture — through a range of embodiments: performance, desire, sexuality, memory, affect, and power. Building on our distinct disciplinary locations (Anthropology, Literature, Art History, Feminist Studies) and regional expertises (Madagascar, Comoros, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, India), we are committed to developing a language and praxis for understanding histories and possibilities of connectivity.