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Becoming Arab: Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World
In this seminar, Sumit Mandal presented his book: Becoming Arab: Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World (Cambridge, 2018). The session was well attended and the audience received a wonderfully illustrated lecture on the complex relationships between ethnicies in Malaysia. By considering Arabs in the Malay world under European rule, Prof. Mandal explored how a long history of inter-Asian interaction was altered by nineteenth-century racial categorisation and control. He explained how his book traces the transformation of Arabs from familiar and multi-faceted creole personages of Malay courts into alienated figures defined by economic and political function. The racialisation constrained but did not eliminate the fluid character of Arabness. Creole Arabs responded to the constraints by initiating transregional links with the Ottoman Empire and establishing modern social organisations, schools, and a press. Contentions emerged between organisations respectively based on Prophetic descent and egalitarianism, advancing empowering but conflicting representations of a modern Arab and Islamic identity. Becoming Arab unsettles finite understandings of race and identity by demonstrating not only the incremental development of a modern identity, but the contested state of its birth.
Sumit Mandal is a historian at the University of Nottingham Malaysia. He works on transregional histories of the Malay world and is currently doing research on Muslim shrines in selected locations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.
Date & time
Wed 10 Oct 2018, 12.30–1.30pm
Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Ellery Cres, ANU
A/Professor Sumit Mandal University of Nottingham Malaysia