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‘Fort Creoles’ are languages that emerged in and around fortified enclaves set up by Europeans in extra-European spaces for the protection of their military and trade interests. My talk uses this concept from Creole linguistics as an entry-point for the fortifications that Europeans began establishing at strategic points on India’s coasts from the fifteenth century onwards. What kind of lives were lived here, what cultural innovations did they catalyse, and what is their memorial imprint? Drawing on fieldwork in three sites – Kochi, Pondicherry and Tranquebar – and using comparative materials from early European forts across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, I propose we see European-built forts in India as motors of creolisation, that stand, furthermore, in dynamic tension with the postcolonial urban afterlives that sprang up around them. 
I will further demonstrate how this model of ‘Fort creole’ is applicable to sites across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. It is therefore a useful comparative heuristic to measure simultaneities of ‘possession’ and ‘dispossession’ through the resurgence of heritage-based economies in sites that have become marginalised in the course of postcolonial politics.

Ananya Jahanara Kabir FBA is Professor of English Literature at King’s College London, and the winner of the Infosys Prize for the Humanities (2017) and the Humboldt Research Prize (2018). She is the author of Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir and Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971, and Modern South Asia. She is currently writing her next book, Alegropolitics: Connecting on the AfroModern Dance Floor. Her new research project explores Creole Indias.

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