Risky business: Rice and inter-colonial dependencies in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans

Kathleen D. Morrison, Mark W. Hauser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In this paper we are concerned with some issues of inter-colonial dependency, especially in food and with a focus on rice that both directly linked the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds and that highlight some structural issues of colonialism, globalization, and food security more generally. This paper examines rice as a staple commodity, one that both reflected and generated inter-colonial dependencies in both ocean worlds, and how that dependency was ultimately fraught. Because the rice trade did not operate in isolation, we also of necessity include some discussion of important non-food crops such as cotton and jute. In the Caribbean, to greater or lesser extents, the colonial plantation economies relied on imported rice and other foodstuffs, needs supplied by other "knots" in the web, especially in the Carolina low country. Other British colonial possessions, too, were developed as "rice bowls" critical to the sustenance of colonized peoples and the support of commercial crops. One of these newer service colonies was British Burma, the formerly sparsely settled delta of the Irrawaddy River. No matter which ocean we center our focus on, and indeed across the "recentered" empire at large, in the Early Modern period rice was a risky business. By making this point we hope to frame a larger conversation about inter-colonial dependencies and the scales at which it is best realized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-392
Number of pages22
JournalAtlantic Studies : Global Currents
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015


  • Burma
  • Caribbean
  • Indian Ocean
  • colonialism
  • food systems
  • rice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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