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Naval connectivity around the Iranian Worlds. From the Persian Gulf towards the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

Nastaran Akhavan International Conference on Iranian Studies

Seventeenth Symposium of the Melammu Project
June 18-21, 20234

Organisers: Touraj Daryaee (UCI), Robert Rollinger (Innsbruck/Wrocław) and Christoph Schäfer (Trier)

Symposium Program

The highlands of Iran have always between a region of seminal connectivity between Central Asia, the Middle East, the Steppe zone and India. This geopolitical asset formed and shaped the history of the Iranian Worlds as a hub of an Afro-Eurasian network from the earliest periods onwards and was a driving force for political, social and economic developments. Modern scholarship paid very much attention to this geopolitical setting of the Iranian worlds. However, this perspective has been and still is biased for two reasons. On the one hand, modern research lopsidedly focused on the transregional land routes generally dubbed as “Silk roads” or “The Great Khorasan Road”. On the other hand, the Iranian Worlds did not and still do not receive appropriate attention as an agent of its own in this dynamic scenario of transregional interconnectedness. Instead, even today scholarship is mainly concentrated on the two alleged main players of Afro-Eurasian connectivity in Antiquity, i.e. the Roman Empire and China. Research history is imbued by this Eurocentric and Sinocentric perspective, dealing with the Iranian worlds solely as an intermediary region between China and Rome, worlds which either impede or tax the trade running through the region but which do not really act as agents of their own.
The Melammu Symposion “Naval connectivity around the Iranian Worlds” intends to change this biased view addressing two main issues. First, it highlights agency of the Iranian Worlds as an actor of its own. The chronological framework will cover two millennia, staring with the definite establishment of empire at the beginning of the first millennium BCE and ending with the Umayyad and Abbasid empire in the first millennium CE. Second, within this longue-durée perspective the conference addresses solely the naval aspect of “Iranian” agency in this lengthy period of Antiquity. Therefore, the Persian Gulf becomes a central zone of scholarly interest as an integral part of a transregional naval network that integrates the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Evidence for this network is direct as well as indirect. It originates from Classical and indigenous, as well as from Chinese written sources. Archaeological and environmental research offer new insights into the various steps of an early process of globalization where the Iranian are supposed to have played a central role.
Within this innovative framework the conference attempts to address “Naval connectivity around the Iranian Worlds” from a multidisciplinary and longue-durée perspective which understands seafaring and agency of the Iranian Worlds as crucial aspects of an early history of globalization.

Further information will follow in due time.