Pearls, People, and Power: Pearling and Indian Ocean Worlds

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Pedro Machado, Steve Mullins, Joseph Christensen
Ohio University Press, Jan 27, 2020 - History - 428 pages

Pearls, People, and Power is the first book to examine the trade, distribution, production, and consumption of pearls and mother-of-pearl in the global Indian Ocean over more than five centuries. While scholars have long recognized the importance of pearling to the social, cultural, and economic practices of both coastal and inland areas, the overwhelming majority have confined themselves to highly localized or at best regional studies of the pearl trade. By contrast, this book stresses how pearling and the exchange in pearl shell were interconnected processes that brought the ports, islands, and coasts into close relation with one another, creating dense networks of connectivity that were not necessarily circumscribed by local, regional, or indeed national frames.

Essays from a variety of disciplines address the role of slaves and indentured workers in maritime labor arrangements, systems of bondage and transoceanic migration, the impact of European imperialism on regional and local communities, commodity flows and networks of exchange, and patterns of marine resource exploitation between the Industrial Revolution and Great Depression. By encompassing the geographical, cultural, and thematic diversity of Indian Ocean pearling, Pearls, People, and Power deepens our appreciation of the underlying historical dynamics of the many worlds of the Indian Ocean.

Contributors: Robert Carter, William G. Clarence-Smith, Joseph Christensen, Matthew S. Hopper, Pedro Machado, Julia T. Martínez, Michael McCarthy, Jonathan Miran, Steve Mullins, Karl Neuenfeldt, Samuel M. Ostroff, and James Francis Warren.


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An Uncertain Venture
The Pearlers Problem
Early Pearling on the Indian Oceans Southeast Fringe
Shell Routes
Pearl Fishing Migration and Globalization in
Enslaved Africans and the Globalization of Arabian Gulf
Torres Strait in the Moluccas
Pearling Fortunes
Pearling Women in North Australia
Pearly Shells a Perfect Pearl and a Guitar in
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2020)

Pedro Machado is a global and Indian Ocean historian with interests in commodity histories, labor and migratory movements, and the social, cultural, environmental, and commercial trajectories of objects. He is based at Indiana University, Bloomington. .

Steve Mullins is a maritime historian specializing in the colonial tropical sedentary fishing industries and interconnections between the western Pacific, northern Australia, and Propinsi Maluku, Indonesia.

Joseph Christensen is a maritime and environmental historian who works on North West Australia and its place in Indian Ocean history. He is based at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, in Perth, Western Australia.

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