Critchfield Conference to explore the 21st century Marine Silk Road

  • Critchfield Conference
    Critchfield Conference
    Scholars from around the world will converge on William & Mary for the third biennial Critchfield Conference on April 5 – 6 to discuss The Indian Ocean Basin: Navigating the 21st Century Marine Silk Road.

Scholars from around the world will converge on William & Mary for the third biennial Critchfield Conference April 5-6 to discuss "The Indian Ocean Basin: Navigating the 21st Century Marine Silk Road."

“This year’s Critchfield Conference deals with one of the most vital regions in the world for the future of human security and development,” said Stephen E. Hanson, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies.  

“Due to our geography, Americans tend to analyze the world in terms of trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific ties, and we often neglect the vibrant cultural and economic interconnections among the nations around the Indian Ocean.  Our conference will provide a comprehensive and in-depth look at the historical context and dramatic contemporary changes in this part of the world.”

The conference will kick off on April 5 with a keynote lecture on "The Indian Ocean Basin in Global Context" by Robert D. Kaplan, foreign correspondent for The Atlantic, Chief Geopolitical Analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, and non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. 

Kaplan’s 2010 book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, provides an in-depth examination of the region and its relationship to American power and relevance on the world stage. 

Three panels will provide the bulk of the conference schedule, with emphasis on the culture, history and politics of the Indian Ocean Basin; the resources, developments and shifting geostrategies of the region; and the challenges it faces in the 21st century. Scholars from around the region will be participating.

Michael C. Hudson, director of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, will provide the luncheon keynote on April 6, discussing U.S. Geopolitical Interest and Policies in the Indian Ocean Basin.

“This year’s Critchfield Conference is charting new territory.  Reflecting historic and contemporary realities, the focus will be on integrating the Middle East into the broader Indian Ocean context,” said Tamara Sonn, Kenan Professor of Humanities in the W&M Department of Religion and conference chairperson. 

“For centuries, African, Arab, and Persian peoples have interacted culturally and economically with the people of South and East Asia.  The conference will cover that background, and then lay out the challenges of global interaction in today’s world, including food, energy, water and environmental security; sustainable development; and geostrategic concerns."

Yet more than just providing a scholarly examination of current topics, the Critchfield Conference also provides the opportunity for current students to become informed about the region and motivated to tackle its challenges in their careers and future positions of leadership.

“In keeping with William & Mary’s long history of providing leaders in government, business and the military, the Critchfield Conference presents a unique insight into one of the most geopolitical issues and challenges affecting commerce, diplomacy and conflict in the twenty-first century, the Indian Ocean and its Marine Silk Road,” noted Lois Critchfield, D.P.S. ’13 , founder of the Critchfield Endowment for Middle East Studies and member of the Reves Center Advisory Council.

“We look on this conference as a launch pad to prepare today's students to meet these challenges and become informed leaders for our country in the coming decades.”     

The 2013 Critchfield Conference is free and open to the public. Registration is required, and will be available from the conference website, www.wm.edu/marinesilkroad from March 1 to 29.

The conference is sponsored by Aramco Services Company as well as William & Mary’s James H. Critchfield Memorial Endowment, Reves Center for International Studies and the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) program. Student organizations including the International Relations Club, and the Middle Eastern Student Association will support this event.