Adrift in the Indian Ocean: Abandonment, Law, and the Making of Maritime Sovereignty


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Adrift in the Indian Ocean” explores how and why empires and nation-states looked beyond land-based territorial conquests and claimed maritime spaces. It is a history of sovereignty and placemaking set in the Indian Ocean from the 18th century onwards, one where imperial officials and scientists confronted the differing views of space held by maritime and coastal communities. Legal fictions such as the “territorial sea” or “historic waters” emerged from these encounters, showing how oceanic space patrolled for security was eventually enclosed as property. Exploring key sites looking out to the ocean from south Indian coasts, “Adrift” shows how people and places once abandoned are dredged up during present-day legal disputes over maritime boundaries in the Indian Ocean.