Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - The Sarsila of the Southern Philippines: They Do Not Say the Truth but Speak Rightly About the Past

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Gulmohar, First Floor

The situation of scholarship on Islam in the Philippines is both linked to an academic tradition different from the ones encountered in the rest of Southeast Asia and to a lack of sources related to its early and modern period. Among the few local sources stand the sarsila, the so-called genealogies of the Sulu and the Maguindanao sultanates. However, these manuscripts pose a double problem: they have been recently-copied (c. 1900) and derived from several oral traditions compiled together.


At the intersection of historical anthropology and area studies, the paper will show that, instead of trying to distinguish historical truth and construction, hence selecting information, these sources should be considered as a whole, as a cultural artifact. Taking as such, the genealogies are less an object of political legitimation than a source for the social history of the region. They clearly link the Southern Philippines to other Southeast Asian sultanates, showing particular features of the so-called Malay Muslim polities. Ultimately, they also bring to a redefinition of the very term of genealogy in a regional perspective.

Elsa Clavé

Goethe University, Germany

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1 - The Sarsila of the Southern Philippines: They Do Not Say the Truth but Speak Rightly About the Past



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