World-Systems Theory, Globalization or Glocalization? Analysing the Dynamics of the Ancient Indian Ocean Ivory Trade

Cobb, Matthew (2023) World-Systems Theory, Globalization or Glocalization? Analysing the Dynamics of the Ancient Indian Ocean Ivory Trade. Topoi. Orient - Occident, 18. pp. 169-197. ISSN 1764-0733

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Ivory has been an important feature of long-distance networks of exchange for millennia, having been traded across the Afro-Eurasian world since antiquity and certainly across much of the globe up until its ban in the twentieth century. It seems to have been prized in various cultures across the world, being utilised as part of jewellery, ornaments, artwork, furniture, religious dedications and more. This ubiquity and popularity necessarily required the development of complex systems of acquisition and distribution. In particular suitable environments with sufficient elephant herds need to be located and exploited. The history of the last few centuries have led many to associate the ivory trade with (over-) exploitation, colonization and slavery, particularly as European powers expanded into Africa (Chaiklin 2010). However, it cannot be taken for granted that such dynamics were necessarily at play in the various regions linked by the ancient Indian Ocean littoral (300 BCE – 700 CE). The present paper considers which theoretical models might be most helpful for us to describe and analyse the various means by which ivory was acquired and distributed across the ancient Indian Ocean littoral. In particular, which of the competing models – World Systems Theory, Globalization or Glocalization – might be most helpful in understanding and characterising the process involved in specific circumstances. Obviously this one paper cannot hope to comprehensively cover the span of 1000 years and such a vast geographic area. Nor could any one model sufficiently characterise all the wide-ranging activity taking place in the wider Indian Ocean. Instead, a few individual case studies will be explored. This includes: the Mediterranean demand for East African Ivory from the Ptolemaic to Late Antique periods; the western Indian ivory trade of the early centuries CE; and the “glocal” reception of ivory in first millennium CE Southeast Asia.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Matthew Cobb
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2023 11:34
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 15:03

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