Over the last thirty years, the Indian Ocean has increasingly been conceptualized as a maritime spatial unit created by translocal relations and processes of exchange. Only recently, however, these relations are being examined from a “bottom-up” perspective, e.g., with a focus on the ways in which those who live at, with, and from the Indian Ocean experience this translocal space and render it meaningful. As a result, an understanding of the Indian Ocean emerges in which its size, shape, and range change with the topics at stake. Taking the Swahili coast as a case in point, Julia Verne and Markus Verne note, the special section “The Indian Ocean as Aesthetic Space” wants to contribute to such an understanding by exploring the Indian Ocean as an aesthetically constituted space. Aesthetic practices and experiences are crucial, they argue, for imaginations of the Indian Ocean and, thus, also for how the Indian Ocean affects social and cultural processes. These aesthetic imaginations, however, reflect far more than the actual empirical processes of cultural or material exchange. Therefore, instead of being deduced from historical fact, they need to be studied in their own right.

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