The early modern period saw England establishing its first colonies in the New World, but its ideas and expectations about foreign nations, travel and its identity as a political and economic power on the global stage were influenced largely by its experiences in other distant but familiar nations. This conference will investigate English interactions with the ‘old worlds’ of the Middle East, South Asia and the Far East. It will ask how such cross-encounters may have shaped not only the literature, art and cultures of England and the host nations, but also a broad range of intellectual, political, cultural, religious and economic determinants of England’s relationship with the wider world.
Overarching questions to be investigated by the conference include:
(1) How did English cultural memories of the Old World, from art, literature and political events such as conflicts in the Islamic Mediterranean, influence actual travel encounters?
(2) How did information and expertise about distant places circulate, and who were the agents of such circulation (from missionaries, merchants, administrators, and indigenous informants, to artisans and scholars)?
(3) What form did the information take (from maps and texts to material artefacts)?
(4) How did religion inflect political and social negotiations? (How is anxiety about piracy in the Islamic Mediterranean and North Africa, for instance, connected to anxieties about conversion between Christianity and Islam?)
(5) What role did trading companies, both those established by the English and their European trading competitors, play in determining structures of knowledge and cross-cultural encounters?
Proposals are invited for complete panels of three or four papers, as well as individual papers on one of the following themes:
- Interplay between ‘old worlds’ and ‘new’
- Circulation networks
- Visual and material culture (art, cartography, crafts)
- Trade, diplomacy, piracy
- Religion and conversion
- Translation and transformation
Please send abstracts (250 words for individual papers and 500 words for complete panels) and a brief biographical statement (if proposing a panel, one for each participant) to Nandini Das at firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 March 2012. Papers should take between 15–20 minutes to present, and panels should last no longer than 1 hour and 20 minutes.