In its will to tame the sea, its routes, and people, capitalism unleashed three intertwined forces: novel networks of circulation, refurbished regimes of violence, and new epistemic disciplines and lexicons, all twirled together into an embrace of forceful conquest and authoritative claim making on a global scale. One of the most salient features of this special section of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, “Capitalism at Sea,” is to reveal and reflect on these often submerged if not mystified violent currents of seaborne capitalism. Circling the seas from Alexandria to Bengal via the Gulf of Aden and the imaginary island of Robinson Crusoe, the special section takes a local-historical approach to the development of maritime capitalism that also charts instances of violence that include the enclosure of pastoral commons, the laying siege of ports, and enforced treaties of circulation and trade.

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