Religion and Early Trade in the Western Indian Ocean: Ideology and Knowledge Exchanges Across the Indian Ocean World
Although facilitating material exchange, trade networks consist of people and are thus in essence social networks. Social networks depend on cohesion among members and boundary-maintenance towards other groups. Throughout history, ethnicity and geographical origin have been important group markers, but long-distance trade poses particular challenges in that it also requires interaction across such lines. This article points not only to the capability of religion for creating and maintaining social networks in the context of trade in the Western Indian Ocean in the pre-Islamic period, but also to the potential it offered for integration between groups not sharing other ties.