African-Asian-European Encounters: Cultural Heritage and Ports of Call in the Indian Ocean during the Early Modern Period

January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2024
36 months

PORTofCALL aims at studying the relation between African-Asian-European encounters during the Early Modern period and the cultural heritage of the Indian Ocean’s port settlements of Portuguese influence. By highlighting the diversity and values of those heritage sites, the project will create vision and tools for their future usage and manageable conservation, focusing on five representative cases.

Recent research has looked at the Indian Ocean rim during the Early Modern period as a place of African-Asian-European cultural encounters and negotiation, in the tradition of earlier trade relations. Challenging historiography’s earlier hegemonic views of imposed dominance, several recent research projects, mostly centred on British, Dutch or French settlements, have addressed these exchanges in the Indian Ocean region. Considering the fields of the History of the Built Environment and Heritage Studies, Portuguese-influenced settlements and their (in)tangible heritage are lagging behind, remaining mostly overlooked by this reassessment. Arguably, they are still perceived as self-contained devices of colonial power, cordoned-off from their surrounding landscapes, and impervious to the diversity of their populations. This has not advanced the cause for their conservation.

PORTofCALL will research how African-Asian-European cultural encounters and negotiation impacted and shaped the built environments and landscapes of the Estado da Índia’s network of port settlements, and their respective hinterlands.  Looking at aspects such as indigenous agency, settlement patterns, building technologies, spatial traditions, arts, and agrarian customs, the project will propose innovative readings for cultural heritage, and create digital heritage maps for each of the five representative cases. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the team will look at port settlements in the contexts of their regional maritime networks, and their respective hinterlands, addressing both urban settings and rural habitats as intertwined cultural landscapes of encounters and negotiated interactions.

By mapping and communicating the signs of cultural encounters, negotiated presence, and agency from mixed backgrounds as cultural heritage, the project will retrieve from oblivion different layers and memories of places. By adding inclusive value to heritage, the project will contribute towards its reintegration within collective identities, nurturing its permanence.

The team includes researchers who have collaborated previously at academic level, combining senior scholars with extensive scientific experience and young researchers carrying out their MA and PhD within the project. The participation and insight of researchers based outside Europe is essential to the scope of the comprehensive in-depth analysis proposed for the five cases, and creates a network that may extend beyond the project’s timeline. As a whole, the team brings together different experiences on practice and History of the Built Environment and on Heritage Studies, encompassing architects, historians, a geographer and an archaeologist, strengthened by consultants with relevance to the project’s themes.


Faculty of Architecture of University of Porto

Faculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

University of Bonn 

cultural encounters, cultural heritage, architecture, landscape
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology