2020: Drought, Floods, and Rainfall in the Indian Ocean World

The conference has been POSTPONED. Further details will be posted when it has been rescheduled.

“Drought, Floods, and Rainfall Anomalies in the Indian Ocean World,” Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University
May 7-8, 2020

Monsoons have been central to studies of the Indian Ocean World (IOW) since the latter emerged as a scholarly subject in the mid-1980s. In formative studies, historians focused on monsoon winds, which determined shifts in the direction of sail, and thus also of trade, at different times of the year. More recently, IOW scholars have emphasised the importance of monsoon rainfall for agricultural and pastoral production in monsoon-affected terrestrial regions. It is upon this more recent scholarly trend that this conference intends to build. Precipitation during monsoon seasons fluctuates on both inter-annual and long-term scales. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Pacific (for example, ENSO) and in the Indian Ocean (Indian Ocean Dipole, IOD), migrations of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ), volcanism, and cyclones are all known to have a role in this context. Monsoon failure results in drought; successive monsoon failures that last decades result in mega-drought. Meanwhile, overly-wet monsoon seasons may lead to periodic flooding or long-term shifts in water-courses.

Analysis of the short- and long-term effects of monsoon fluctuations has the potential to offer further insights into numerous key themes of IOW studies. Contributors may consider how rainfall anomalies in the IOW affect and have affected, for example: human-environment interaction; the spread of diseases and their vectors; and/or political institutions. Moreover, contributors who analyse the effects of rainfall anomalies on production may consider the ways in which their perspective modifies how formative IOW histories of oceanic and overland trade may be reconsidered.

For more information, please contact either Philip Gooding (philip.gooding [at] mcgill.ca) or Peter Hynd (peter.hynd [at] mcgill.ca).

Registration for the conference will be $100 CAD ($50 CAD for students). We intend to apply for external funding, but applicants should work on the basis that they will be responsible for funding their travel and accommodation.

We plan to publish selected conference papers in a special edition of a peer-reviewed journal or edited collection.