Lambourn picks up an important point – that the material culture of the Ottoman connection, including physical signs like the flag used in Terengganu – was essential to the circulation of notions of connectedness to a Caliphate and a Muslim World beyond the Malay Peninsula. This is in addition to the intangible signs of this connection, including rumours of Ottoman intervention, which also played an important role in Terengganu.
Lambourn has also noticed my “detailed, high-quality maps,” created by the CartoGIS unit in the College of Asia & the Pacific at the Australian National University. This is a critical resource, and institutional access to it was critical to these maps existing at all.
Amrita Malhi’s chapter opens a window onto previously under-appreciated dimensions of anti-British uprisings in early twentieth-century Malaya through her explorations of the “subterranean symbolic life” of the Ottoman Empire in Muslim Southeast Asia—and in particular in the ritual and political imaginations of Malay “secret societies.”
Image: Cover of the ASAA Conference Program for 2016.
I presented some work in progress at the 2016 conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia at the ANU, in a panel called Mobility, Place and Displacement in Histories of the Left in Indonesia and Malaysia, chaired by Dr Vannessa Hearman of the University of Sydney.
I talked about the Tenth Regiment of the Malayan People’s Army and their project to create a new kind of Malay Muslim from their marginal location in hiding during and after the Malayan Emergency.
The chapters by two other young promising historians, Amrita Malhi and Chiara Formichi, on British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies respectively, bring into the twentieth century the study of Southeast Asian interest in the Ottoman Empire as well as that of the contemporary Turkish Republic. Read together, they record a shift from a fascination with Ottoman Caliphal pretences to the vivid interest exhibited by anti-colonial activists in the achievements of Kemal Atatürk.
Today I had the pleasure of speaking at this year’s Southeast Asia Update, organised by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), in the first Round Table session of the day, titled ‘Religious Renewal’. The discussion featured themes such as the continued reality of religious plurality and diversity alongside strong efforts by state and non-state actors to generate new orthodoxies. Picture: KITLV.
Today I spent the day with colleagues in a fantastic workshop on Violence, Displacement & Muslim Movements in Southeast Asia, hosted by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society. The full program is available from the KITLV website.
Today I gave a talk about the production of the world system and the continued relevance of the idea of the Caliphate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at The University of Adelaide. A lovely bunch of people to spend an afternoon with.
In chapter ten, Amrita Malhi examines the repeated invocations of the Ottoman Caliphate made by native rulers in the Malay peninsula between 1874 and 1928, as the British made their “forward movement” into the previously independent Malay states. In an original and important reading of these overlooked events, Malhi demonstrates that the practice of invoking the Caliphate was emblematic of a profound reworking of the global order, recognized by Malay Muslims, and expressed in their increasingly desperate appeals to the ideal of the Caliphate even as a global British imperialism was ushering in the Ottoman collapse.
The Muslim World Special Issue on Muslim Modernities: Interdisciplinary Insights Across Time and Space
Today, I had an article come out in The Muslim World, in a special issue edited by Daren E. Ray and Joshua Gedacht called “Muslim Modernities: Interdisciplinary Insights across Time and Space”.
My article is a history of the politically potent conflation between race, religion and royalty – the well-known 3Rs that have become emblems of Malay Muslim nationalism – in Malaysian public life. These are precisely the 3Rs that groups like the new Malaysian redshirts refer to in their rhetoric. This rhetoric reflects the present and historical influence of a form of statist Islamism that views nations like Malaysia as racial-religious constructions.
In the article, I argue that this conflation (at least partly) originates in negotiations between Britain and Siam as they carved up the Malay Peninsula between them, sealing off Siamese and Malayan geo-bodies on either side of the boundary they first produced in 1902. I show how arguments made by Malay Muslim rulers who wanted to be included on the “Malaya” side of the border were early examples of this conflation. These arguments were so powerful that they contributed to establishing Malaya/Malaysia as a state that remains seemingly permanently-structured by these 3Rs.
My abstract is here:
Since 1957, Malaysian public life has been organized around a historic conflation of three important political themes: “race, religion and royalty”, or “3R”, all of which are purportedly championed and defended by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). This article explores how this conflation of themes became so important to this postcolonial nation-state, specifically by investigating its influence in shaping Malaya’s territorial limits. The 3R conflation has deep historical roots which stretch much further back than the moment of decolonization, as shown by a series of approaches to Britain made by Malay Muslim rulers between 1895 and 1902—the period in which a boundary between Malaya and Siam was first negotiated. During these years, these rulers—all of whom ruled over Siamese tributaries—appealed to Britain to colonize their polities to prevent their incorporation into Siam. Their appeals were framed in terms of 3R, giving momentum to the idea of a “Malay Muslim” geo-body in Malaya, in which a transformed monarchy should preside over a modernized sacral sphere of racial and religious identity.
If you can access it, the full text of the article is available from Taylor & Francis.
I gave a talk on territorial enclosures and the Caliphate on the Malay Peninsula for the History Seminar Series at Flinders University today. Why? Because they invited me!
My talk focused on the allure the Ottoman Caliphate held for anti-colonial rebels during the British period of forward movement—and the ways in which seemingly-localised uprisings were really aimed at the world system as a whole, as well as at local tactics for privatising land and forests.