19th-Century Migrations and the Future of Asia

The Harvard historian says the Indian Ocean is "an interregional arena of political, economic and cultural interaction."

MUMBAI, January 13, 2011 - Historic migrations have had a profound impact on life in Asia regardless of their size or what triggered the movement, be it war, politics, or economic necessity. Today, movements within and between countries have multiplied, magnifying not only the effects of the past but also the possibilities of Asia's future.

Gardiner Professor of History at Harvard University Sugata Bose made these points in the inaugural programme of Asia Society India Centre's Future of Asia series. In conversation with Kamala Ganesh, Sociology Professor at the University of Mumbai, Bose put 19th-century migrations in the Indian Ocean region into a historical context and also explained how migrations will continue to affect Asia.

Using stories of the past as an allegory for the future, Bose traced the spread of "the idea of Asia," as it was perceived and promulgated both within the continent and by European explorers. He cited the life of the Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate in Literature Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) to underscore Asian universalism and how it has evolved.

Bose argued that Asia is recovering the stature in the world it lost in the 18th century, and that Asian universalism is fully alive today. The future of Asia and of the world, he said, then depends on respectfully negotiating cultural and religious differences, while being mindful of such universalism.

The Future of Asia is presented by Asia Society India Centre and the Mohile Parikh Centre. The series brings together a diverse group of speakers from across the world to explore the future of Asia from a multidisciplinary perspective. The first year of the series investigates migration and its impact on the future of Asia.