In the Sea of Influence: A World System Perspective of the Nicobar Islands
From a “world system” perspective, this monograph describes the processes by which the Nicobar Islands became integrated into the global economy. Situated some 1,200 km off the east coast of India in the Bay of Bengal, the islands are home to an indigenous population of approximately 40,000 inhabitants who draw their sustenance from horticulture, pig rearing, fishing and, more recently, copra production. The location of the Nicobar Islands on an ancient trade route to southeast Asia has had inevitable consequences for both the inhabitants and the islands’ ecology; the pace of change increasing with the European colonisation of Asia. The islands are no longer a source of food and shelter to passing vessels as they used to be in former times, but are positioned, despite present protectionist measures, on the disadvantaged side of an exploitative relationship through an unequal exchange of resources within the modern world system. In drawing linkages between the world system perspective and environmental change, this monograph emphasises a shift from monetary indicators to biophysical indicators. Based on archival material and prolonged fieldwork, the monograph is a first detailed account of the colonial and economic history of the Nicobar Islands, and hence of interest not only to the scientific community, but to the general reader as well.