Maps of the world portray oceans as vast, blue, empty spaces. But oceans are neither vacant nor lawless. In fact, they are among the most legally and politically contested regions in the world today. But how have present-day conflicts been shaped by the maritime histories of European imperialism and anti-colonial challenges to imperial power?
Dr. Renisa Mawani, Canada Research Chair in Colonial Legal Histories, is drawing on archival materials to examine how Britain’s legal regulation of Indian traders and anti-colonials in the Indian Ocean informed maritime legal governance and shaped the development of an international legal order. By studying the perspectives of Indian traders who challenged British Imperial and maritime control, Mawani and her research team hope to offer new perspectives on the legal histories of the Indian Ocean-a region that remains at the forefront of many current legal and political disputes.