Organized Panel Session
While AAS is known for its encouragement of trans-regional research, Islam has so far played a minor role in this initiative. Discussions of Islam as a world religion linking disparate worlds across Eurasia tend to be hindered as much by the arbitrary divisions among professional associations, as by the geopolitics of empire that generated and reinforced such divisions from the nineteenth century onwards. This panel aims to break the ice by assembling a group of scholars sharing a common interest in examining the cross-regional networks of Muslims that bring ideas and peoples, texts and artefacts, rituals and practices from one end of the world to the other, crossing Asia as a critical crossroad that is intricately woven into a spiritual cosmos.
In this panel we trace the contours of these Eurasian Islamic networks by comparing how objects—texts, gemstones, landscapes, ashes—move across various borders to generate novel forms of Muslim life that transcend at once a confined understanding of “Asia” as a region and a limited portrayal of Islam as a “religion”. Objects and their organized imbrication with religious life are essential for us because we approach Islam as a lived religion that has always been multilingual, trans-regional, and sensorially mediated—a fact often bypassed by the predominant stress on canonical texts. How do objects embody and revive trans-regional histories of Muslim mobilities? How do Muslims in Asia use objects to sustain communities that defy the nation-state? Through Islam, do we see a different and so far underexplored “Asia”?