In the 1930s, the notion of "monsoon Asia" was widespread in the fields of geography and anthropology. Its adherents saw climate, and particularly the seasonally reversing monsoon winds, as central to understanding the commonalities among India, Southeast Asia, and southern China. Monsoon Asia had largely disappeared as a geographical category by the 1980s, but now it is back, says historian and MacArthur Fellow Sunil Amrith. Its return has been especially notable in climate science, where new research is investigating the impact of human activity on monsoon patterns. But it has also reappeared in the humanities as a way to conceive of transregional connections.
Amrith, the Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies and chair of the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University, explored the material and intellectual history of the monsoon Asia idea, as well as its potential and limitations in writing interAsian histories, in a public lecture November 15 in Malott Hall. The talk was organized by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and cosponsored by the South Asia Program.