Pedro Sobral Pombo

Pedro Pombo has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at IIT Gandhinagar (India) since 2015 and will join Goa University (India) at the end of 2018. In 2015 he received his PhD in Anthropology from ISCTE- IUL, Lisbon (Portugal) with an ethnographic exploration on space, belonging, local history and personal archives in Southern Mozambique. After graduating in Decorative Arts and Design (1998), he developed research on Indo-Portuguese architecture and urbanism before taking long periods of ethnographic work in Mozambique. The experience of doing ethnography in both margins of the Indian Ocean sustains his research on the multiple dimensions of oceanic circulations though interdisciplinary dialogues, crossing cartography and archive with intangible heritage, personal narratives and material culture.

More recently, Pedro has been investigating the traces of maritime connections with Mozambique in the island of Diu, on the Western coast of India, further exploring exchanges between art history and anthropology.

He joins ASCL for the ASC-IIAS fellowship with the project “African topographies in India: (in)visible heritages, circulations and contemporary art”. This project draws on-going research and aims at locating the contemporary presence of Africa in India within a chronological and geographical map, establishing a dialogue between the (in)visible legacies of the past and the contemporary Afro-Asian fluxes, through a cartography overlapping visual and material cultures, migration fluxes and critical art projects.

African presence across Asia has left different layers and, in this wider map, India is a privileged location to critically analyze the present and the futures of Afro-Asian connections. Contemporary flows of circulations trigger localized social and spatial interactions with ‘African’ spaces in Asian cities at different scales, questioning the (dis)continuities of old Indian Ocean dislocations. These contemporary circulations also re-enact imaginaries of the ‘other’, remembering that old stereotypes are still alive in disperse circulations across the globe.

In recent times, cultural landscapes and artistic projects illuminating aesthetic and cultural flows connecting Asia and Africa have received some scholarly attention and in India art projects have been particularly acute sites of enquiry of a submerged history and the actual complex realities lived by African migrants in the country. Simultaneously, several art projects discussing not only the historical ties between India and the African continent but also the actual presence of Africans in India gained public exposure. While these works direct us to reflect on the representation of African blackness, they also act as a mirror where Indian society can be reflected. Art, thus, can act as a powerful location to connect historical processes and their remnants with the contemporary circumstances and to build new cartographies of Africa in India knitting the apparent disjunctures between the past and the present.

In a broader perspective, this inquiry intends to dialogue with the larger geographies of Afro-Asian relations and to critically tie disparate locations of memory that inhabit the Asian space in order to think what future heritages can be imagined from the contemporary realities.


Fellowship year: 
Dr. P. (Pedro) Sobral Pombo
Former visiting fellow
Room number: 3A20