The Indian Ocean World Centre, a McGill Research Centre since 2011, 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, “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 unofficially 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 organized under the auspices of this research association. In 2011, the IOWC was officially recognised as a McGill research centre.