Diplomacy and (mis)comprehension in the Antique Indian Ocean: gift-giving and ritual as a form of communication

Cobb, Matthew (2024) Diplomacy and (mis)comprehension in the Antique Indian Ocean: gift-giving and ritual as a form of communication. Topoi. Orient - Occident. ISSN 1764-0733 (In Press)

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There has been much discussion of the fluid nature of concepts like luxury, prestige and symbolism in the Ex Oriente Luxuria series (Schneider 2015). It is frequently recognised that these categorises are not immutable and whether an object (or the complex set of interactions involving its use) is imbued with such meaning is often dependent upon on specific circumstances, subjective experience and wider cultural values. Factors such as rarity, expense and what constitutes the exotic is heavily context dependent. As such, the meaning attributed to different items, be they spices, precious gemstones, or animals (/animal products) will vary from location to location. This raises an important series of questions – how easily could shared codes of interaction exist between societies separated by vast distances? More specifically, how might gifts that formed part of diplomatic dialogue be understood both by the giving party and the recipient? Do our sources allow us to easily analyse such forms of communication or is any original meaning too heavily distorted by the medium of record (such as literary genre) and pre-existing cultural expectations (clichés, topoi, notions of “otherness”)? The present paper explores these issues in relation to the Antique Indian Ocean (end of the first millennium BC to mid-first millennium AD). Two broad areas will receive particular focus. The first is relations between the Roman Empire and South Asian polities. In particular, considering the extent to which such diplomatic contact was coloured by the legacy of Alexander the Great. The second area to be examined relations between the Roman state, the Blemmyes and Axum. In addition to drawing upon source material from antiquity, comparative evidence from the better documented early modern period will also inform the discussion.

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: 30 Apr 2024 10:39
Last Modified: 10 May 2024 11:17
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/2933

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