During this conversational-style roundtable, the discussants will offer short reflections on their own work and on the position of the study of Islam (or Muslims) in Asia vis-à-vis the broader field of Asian Studies in the last 50 years. The fact that Islam reached Asia “late” and “gradually” has often translated in scholars of Asia sidelining the importance and impact of this religion, privileging instead the study of “indigenous” religious traditions. Similarly, within the field of Islamic Studies, Asia is often seen as the land of syncretic, unorthodox, localized practices.
David Atwill will look at three geographically different groups of Muslims in Yunnan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, seeking to problematize the ethnic and geographic approach that often guides the question of Islam and Muslims in China.
Michael Feener will offer thoughts on the Maldives Heritage Survey which systematically inventories and documents endangered tangible cultural heritage in the Maldives, and on the role of material culture in understanding of the history of Islam in this little-studied archipelago at the cross-roads of an interconnected Indian Ocean world.
Lin Hongxuan will consider the ways in which Southeast Asian Muslims have recently engaged with intellectual currents of disparate epistemic origins, such as Marxism, Feminism, and progressive hermeneutics. These engagements have resulted in novel intellectual configurations which, while currently marginalized, are sophisticated and path-breaking. They constitute examples of Southeast Asian Muslims' unique contributions to intellectual output of the wider Muslim world
Anand Taneja, based on his book Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi, will argue that Islam in South Asia is not just a religious identity, but an ethical inheritance, open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, due to the long history of translation of Islamic concepts and life ways into Indic forms.
How has the study of Islam (or Muslims) featured in their work, and how has that interfaced with regional fields more generally? How could a more dedicated focus on the study of Islam enrich our understanding of Asian societies, cultures, and histories? Together with the chair, Chiara Formichi, the discussants will think through these questions and open an inclusive conversation with the audience