Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Dieter Conrad Memorial Lecture 2013

Asian histories of globalization: long distance mobility and territorial power in the longue duree

Prof. Dr. David Ludden

Department of History

New York University, USA

Date: Thursday, 27 June 2013
Venue: SAI-Library, Heinrich Zimmer Lesesaal
Time: 6 p. m.



Historical understandings of globalization in Asia should not begin as they typically do in social science and policy analysis with the global geography of national territories that came into being after 1945. Long distance mobility moving in many directions at various speeds shape local realities everywhere in Asia from ancient times, Until the sixteenth century, Europe remained an peninsular outlier in a vast Asian space of human mobility running from Mediterranean to Pacific, along the Silk Road and coastlines from East Africa to Japan. After 1500, a sea-going world economy included the Americas, propelled European hegemony, and encompassed the Asian circulatory system, attaching its Western, Southern, and Eastern regions to networks of power dominated by Europe and the US. Those attachments stand out in today's world of nations, where states manage the political economy and cultural politics of globalization, but Asian dynamics of mobility over the long term and down to the present demand more academic attention, particularly as they pertain to coastal regions, inland frontiers, and expansive cultural spaces of territorial power.


David Ludden is Professor of Political Economy and Globalization and Chair of the Department of History at New York University. He first worked in South Asia in 1968, as a public health intern, and in graduate school he moved into Tamil literature and development studies, doing translations of ancient Tamil poetry and research in agrarian economic and social history. In 1978, he received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania, where he served on the faculty from 1981 until 2007. He was chair of South Asia programs at Penn, at the Social Science Research Council, and at the Fulbright Senior Scholars program (CIES). In 2002, he served as President of the Association for Asian Studies. His research concerns histories of development and globalization. Until 1993, he focused on southern India. Then he moved his work into Bangladesh and northeast India. His publications include four edited volumes, three monographs, and over 50 academic articles and chapters, whose overarching theme is the comparative history of capitalism, particularly in agrarian settings and as it concerns inequality, poverty, conflict, and social movements. His current writing is slowly adding up to a book that is now called History Inside Globalization: Spatial Power and Inequity in Asia, which focuses on the reproduction and transformation of imperial forms of knowledge, power, authority, and inequity inside the world of nations under globalization. (

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