The Indian Ocean World Centre has its origins in the Indian Ocean Project (IOP) established by Gwyn Campbell in 1993 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The IOP established a programme in Indian Ocean studies and organized an international conference on "France, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean" that was co-sponsored by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and l'Institut français d'Afrique du sud (IFAS). As founder of the IOP, Campbell was invited to advise the South African Government in negotiations with a number of Indian Ocean countries (including Australia, India and Mauritius), which resulted in the formation of an Indian Ocean regional association in 1997.
The IOP was reborn in 1999 as the Association pour l'étude de l'Afrique et les pays de l'Océan Indian (AAOI) at the University of Avignon, France. There, it helped established an academic programme on North-South relations and organized five international conferences on slavery, resulting in several publications.
Following Campbell's appointment as a Canada Research Chair at McGill University in 2004, the AAOI became the Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC) based at McGill.
The IOWC's inaugural conference, "Sex, Power and Slavery," held at McGill in April 2007, constituted the ninth such international conference organised under the auspices of a research association now entering its sixteenth year.
- 2012 "Crossroads between Empires and Peripheries – Knowledge Transfer, Product Exchange and Human Movement in the Indian Ocean World," Ghent University, Belgium.
- 2011 "Enslavement, Bondage and the Environment in the Indian Ocean World," McGill University, Montreal.
- 2009 "Debt and Slavery: The History of a Process of Enslavement," McGill University, Montreal.
- 2008 "Workshop on Madagascar: Humans, Health and Environment in Madagascar," McGill University, Montreal.
- 2007 "Sex, Power and Slavery: The Dynamics of Carnal Relations under Enslavement," McGill University, Montreal.
- 2006 "Wine in the World: Markets, tourism and globalisation," University of Florence, Italy.
- 2004 "Children, Unfree Labour and Slavery," Avignon, France.
- 2004 "Wine and Economic Development from Early Times to the Present Day," Avignon, France.
- 2002 "Women in Slavery – In Honour of Suzanne Miers," Avignon, France.
- 2001 "Slavery, Unfree Labour and Revolt in Asia and the Indian Ocean," Avignon, France.
- 2000 "The Structure of Slavery and Unfree Labour in Asia and the Indian Ocean during the 19th and 20th Centuries," Avignon, France.
- 1999 "North-South Migration," Avignon, France.
- 1995 "France, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean," Johannesburg, South Africa.