Burkhard Schnepel

Martin-Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Biography.

Burkhard Schnepel studied Social Anthropology in Berlin, Oxford and Heidelberg. He got his D. Phil from Oxford in 1986 and his Habilitation from Heidelberg in 1996 with theses on the Shilluk of the Southern Sudan and the Jungle Kings of East India respectively. Since 2002 he is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, where he also holds the position (since 2007) as Director of the Centre of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. He has done extensive research on East Africa, especially the Shilluk; East India, especially Orissa; and on the Indian Ocean, especially Mauritius. His current thematic interests lie in cultural heritage, the anthropology of tourism and the ethnohistory of port cities of the Indian Ocean. His publications include The Jungle Kings: Ethnohistorical Aspects of Politics and Ritual in Orissa (2002). He recently co-edited (with Edward A. Alpers) Connectivity in Motion: Island Hubs in the Indian Ocean World.

「 The Inner Life of Maritime Hubs: The Mauritian Case 」

In this presentation, “trans-ports” – these special places-cum-people – are regarded as “hubs,” i.e., as highly connected nodes of convergence, entanglement and divergence in the global streams of human beings, animals, finances, ideas and other matters. With regard to the panel theme guiding us here, i.e., with regard to the “inner life of maritime hubs”, this quality of hubs as being “highly connected” needs to be complemented by another observation regarding the qualities which hubs exhibit: Hubs are charged with an extraordinary energy that affects their own inner life and that also and most importantly changes those beings and things that partake in it, if only temporarily when passing by. Hubs, then, have agency and a certain dynamic vitality with regard to more than just putting things and beings in motion and making them circulate and flow. They are also and significantly agentive with regard to translating the meaning, functions, usages, forms and (material as well as ideational) values of all things and beings that pass through them and that invariably stay for a while within them. More often than not, these changes add value, part of which remains in the “trans-port” and thus makes it profit from being a hub. This inner life and these interior dynamics of trans-ports, are discussed in analytical terms, theorizing the panel’s intellectual objectives, as well as with empirical reference to the paradigm of Mauritius, a small island in the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean.

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