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Small islands, big influence - Festival of Ideas lecture by Caius historian

  • 10 October 2017

The influence of islands and their peoples on the modern world will be explored in a lecture by Caius History Fellow Dr Sujit Sivasundaram as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2017.

Reflecting the festival's timely theme of "truth", the talk will examine the idea that islands - often left out of historical narratives - can be seen as "hot spots" for truth-making in the past.

In this multi-media lecture, Islands and the making of the world we know, Dr Sivasundaram uses paintings, photographs, film, indigenous sources and colonial documents to tell a new history of the making of the modern world. It places islands and islanders at the centre and presents the argument that these tiny spaces were critical laboratories for ideas, politics, knowledge and culture.

Building on his book Islanded (2013), Dr Sivasundaram weaves together the histories of islands such as Sri Lanka, Tasmania, Singapore and Tonga at a time when the world was in flux – at the end of the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. If islands can be seen as centres of truth-making, he suggests, could it be that notions of racial difference, conceptions of gender, forms of the state and environmental policies, amongst other things, were honed on islands and then exported elsewhere? Dr Sivasundaram said: "Historical research keeps generating novel interpretations on the past and this is an exercise in such thinking, from a growing areas of current historical writing, namely wider world history".

  • Islands and the making of the world we know - Saturday 28 October, 3pm, Bateman Auditorium, Gonville & Caius College

Illustration: Reproduced map of New Zealand originally drawn in chalk on the floor by two Maori Chiefs, Tuki Tahua and Ngahuruhuru, at Norfolk Island, 1793, and believed to be the first map drawn by a Maori.

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