Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality


Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality

An Interdisciplinary Conference at TORCH, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

2–3 May 2019 (Thursday full day & Friday half day)

St Luke’s Chapel, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

University of Oxford


Keynote Speakers:

Leila Fawaz (History, Tufts University)

Benjamin Walton (Music, University of Cambridge)



(Free but recommended, due to limited seating capacity at St Luke’s)



Organised by the Colonial Ports and Global History Network at the University of Oxford, this exciting interdisciplinary conference brings together scholars from such disciplines and fields as Archaeology, Area Studies, English, History, Italian and Comparative Literature, Music, Sociology and Visual Anthropology.

The aim of the conference is to cross-examine three key concepts – agency, affect and temporality – that are increasingly central to scholarly thought about colonial port cities. In doing so, it also explores anew the implications of the ‘colonial port city’ for global history, both in and beyond the academy.

In addition to the four panels of individual papers, there will also be a World Café workshop for all of the attendees, with featured presenters and topics.   

We are delighted to have two distinguished keynote speakers: Leila Fawaz, Issam M. Fares Chair of Lebanese & Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University, whose broad expertise encompasses migration, trade and war in the modern Middle East;and Benjamin Walton, Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Cambridge, whose rich expertise extends from touring opera troupes beyond Europe to the globalisation of opera in and beyond the nineteenth century. 

On 2 May, lunch and tea/coffee will be provided. On 3 May, tea/coffee will be provided.



2 May (Thursday)

8:45–9:00 Registration and Arrival

9:00–9:10 Welcome Remarks

Yvonne Liao (University of Oxford)

9:10–10:40 Panel 1

Consuming Colonial Ports: Consumption of Goods and Questions of Agency

Chair: Olivia Durand (University of Oxford)

Elizabeth Schmidt (University of California, Santa Barbara)

‘Sundry Sorts of Merchants Goods’: Consuming the Empire in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Mikko Toivanen (European University Institute)

Babel in the streets, Berlioz at the club: Mapping Class and Culture in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Singapore and Batavia through Soundscapes

Emma Bond (University of St Andrews)

Playing with the Sugar Histories of Greenock

10:40–10:55 Coffee Break

10:55–12:25 Panel 2

Timing Colonial Ports: Global Time and Local Temporalities

Chair: Hatice Yıldız (University of Oxford)

David Irving (ICREA/Institució Milà i Fontanals–CSIC, Barcelona)

Temporality, Aesthetics, and Musical Novelty in Early Modern Colonial Port Cities

Nancy Cushing (University of Newcastle, Australia)

The Time Ball and the Time Gun: Marking Time in a Colonial Port City

Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada (University of Cambridge)

Summer Grass, Traces of the Brave Ones’ Dream: Harada Hatsu on the recollection of a sense of a timeless Japan in Chiapas, Mexico

12:25–13:15 Lunch

13:15–15:15 World Café Workshop 

Chair: Julia Binter (University of Oxford)

This Workshop invites conference attendees to actively engage with the key conceptual frameworks, themes and approaches that have emerged from the conference, amongst them the ethics of doing global history, the power relations in and of archives, and the politics of decentring world maps. The Workshop will begin with timed, small-group discussions that will be hosted across four differently themed tables. Each table will be led by featured speakers and facilitated by CPAGH moderators. The attendees will rotate periodically across the four tables. Towards the end, all contributions will be brought together and addressed in a general discussion. Through its rotational format, the World Café cultivates a unique participatory dynamic, enabling the attendees to rigorously and democratically explore possible future directions, challenges and prospects for the interdisciplinary study of Colonial Ports and Global History, in and beyond the academy.

Featured presenters and topics:

Michael Leadbetter, Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, and Michael Yeo (University of Oxford)

Rethinking the Histories of Ports in Asia: Beyond Cosmopolitanism, Metrocentricism, and Romanticization

Moderator: Hatice Yıldız 

David Martinez-Robles (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Struggling for Agency in Treaty Port China

Moderators: Yvonne Liao and Min-Erh Wang

Ana Cristina Mendes (University of Lisbon)

Touring Mare Nostrum

Moderator: Olivia Durand

Aaron Jaffer (TBC)

Redressing Silences in the Archive 

Moderators: Julia Binter and Katharina Oke

15:15–15:45 Coffee Break

15:45–16:45 Keynote: Leila Fawaz (Tufts University)

Chair: Hatice Yıldız

18:00– Conference Dinner at Pierre Victoire for presenters and keynote speakers

3 May (Friday)

8:30–10:00 Panel 3

Experiencing Colonial Ports: Forming Global Bodies

Chair: Katharina Oke (King’s College London)

Debbie Onuoha (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Lagos, Lagos: Navigating Personal Histories between Two Port Cities on Film

 Manikarnika Dutta (Wellcome Unit, University of Oxford)

‘Portals of Death’: European Seamen in the Colonial Port Cities of Calcutta and Bombay

Katherine Roscoe (University of Liverpool)

Embodied Experience and Unfree Labour in Port Cities: Convict Workers in Sydney and Gibraltar

10:00–10:15 Coffee Break

10:15–11:45 Panel 4

Sensing Colonial Ports: Affective Registers

Chair: Min-Erh Wang (University of Oxford)

Aatreyee Ghosh (Leiden University)

Looking from the Verandah: Interrogating the Border-Spaces of Port Towns Canton and Batavia through the Historical Fiction of Amitav Ghosh and David Mitchell

Alexander Petrov (Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences)

The Development of Colonial Ports in Russian America

Nagihan Haliloğlu (Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul)

Sensing and Resisting the Colonial Port in Istanbul in Leonard Woolf and Halide Edib’s Writing

12:00–13:00 Keynote: Benjamin Walton (University of Cambridge)

Chair: Yvonne Liao

13:00–13:10 Closing Remarks

Facilitator: Olivia Durand