Online: 24.01.2022 Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge):
Colombo in Global History.
The city of Colombo, on the western shores of the island of Sri Lanka, embodies some of the challenges facing Global South cities today. It is in the midst of a ten billion dollar Port Development Project financed by the Chinese, which is seeing land built in the sea as an additional quarter. In this paper, I survey the early modern and multiply colonised histories of this city, Portuguese, Dutch and British, and interrogate it as a settlement that came to be in a wetland geography without a significant natural harbour. I think through place-making and placelessness for the communities that inhabited and inhabit this space and consider the forcing of nature and the body as a context for the expansion of the city. I use the archival excess of film and literature to destabilise my reading of the enforced origins of the city and argue that there is still an inherent instability to the pathways of the city, past and future. In sum, this is an environmentally and materially aware urban history from the centre of the Indian ocean.
Sujit Sivasundaram is Professor of World History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. His most recent book on the age of revolutions in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, 'Waves Across the South' was shortlisted for the British Academy Prize for Global Cultural Understanding and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History.
This talk will be online. Here is the link for the Webex session: