Friday, September 25, 2009

Abu-Lughod Week 3

As Abu-Lughod travels east in the thirteenth century world system, the territory gets less and less familiar and more and more interesting as it seems evermore critical to trade and culture. At the beginning of Part III, she studies India, the middleman between the East and the West. India was divided into three overlapping zones, divided for geographic purposes as well as simultaneous religious/cultural differences. The western zone was predominantly Islam while the eastern zone was Buddhist and the central zone Hindu. The geographical boundaries were much more dramatic though. They were most divided by the monsoon seasons and the winds they brought. Since India protruded out into the Indian Ocean and most trade was done by sea at this point, the wind pattern was critical. There was a very specific schedule that needed to be followed through the year that only allowed limited travel. Southern India reaped most of the benefits from the trade, being the hinge between the Middle East and China, but western and eastern India flourished as well. Western India, Malabar, was the hinge between the Mediterranean and the Middle East while eastern India, Coromandel, linked the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
I don’t mean to follow any trends, but it really is intriguing, the question of why India hadn’t unified. At this point it was divided, particularly into the three cultural zones, but the most major stop on the way from East to West and vice versa. India barely had to work for its position in the world system, it just came to it. But if it had all this automatic power, why didn’t it capitalize, unite, and dominate the world system? It is a mystery to me as to why India seemed void of any interest to unite, but with their lucky location, it’s true that there seemed to be no need for such measures. Each of the individual parts of India were also truly self-sufficient creating less need. The Portuguese invasion also prevented this from happening too. Now it’s getting to more familiar territory as the Portuguese navy is beginning to dominate the seas. Originally the Chinese navy was the most powerful in the Indian Ocean, but Portugal came in and soon took control, heavily taxing traders in the area. During this time, India also didn’t feel the need to create a navy since it was so wealthy because of its location. The Portuguese invasion caused India to fall and ensured European dominance in the world system, evolving to the modern world.
But still, I wonder why India hadn’t united. These are completely valid reasons and it’s logical that they didn’t feel the need to. But looking back in retrospect it just seems so foolish since India could have been so unbelievably great and powerful. Was there a lot of conflict between the independent parts of India? Did they not see what was coming with this world system?

Dana Bodnar

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