South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Negotiating Distance, Navigating Law: Forging Trans-regional Religious Networks in and Across the Indian Ocean

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Marigold, New Building

As steam transportation, labor migration, and commercial integration expanded in the latter-half of the nineteenth century, South Asian Muslims found themselves inhabiting new places and embracing new imperial networks of mobility and exchange. While missionary activity and the construction of local congregational communities (Green 2008) contributed to the formation of religious kinship abroad, postal and telegraphic networks allowed communication to travel between religious leaders at home and those now living abroad. Looking at these networks of communication and exchange offers a new model for understanding religious activity and community in the age of long-distance travel and trade across the Indian Ocean and throughout the British Empire. Using Urdu-language fatwā literature, and tracing legal discourse as it was exchanged between Muslims who traveled abroad and their hometown muftīs who remained within the Indo-Muslim heartlands of the subcontinent, this talk examines the role of religio-legal discourse in the construction of trans-regional religious communities through the maintenance and preservation of these local affinities and connections. Such discourse demonstrates one of the ways in which imperial geography contributed to new understandings of religious community and forged new networks of authority and influence, despite the introduction of distance and a departure from home. This paper thus analyzes the role of legal consultation in creating and maintaining networks of religious affinity and community between migrants and merchants in southern Africa, Burma, and farther afield as they consulted trusted religious advisors at home within the context of the imperial religious marketplace.

Elizabeth Lhost

University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

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4 - Negotiating Distance, Navigating Law: Forging Trans-regional Religious Networks in and Across the Indian Ocean



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