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.”
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.
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.
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.
Today, I had a book chapter published which seeks to move beyond the threat-and-response rhythm created by groups like the Islamic State and national governments in our region and around the world. Instead, I’ve worked to show that the allure of the Caliphate in Southeast Asia has a history, indeed one that can be reconstructed from fragments of evidence left behind by the British in Malaya, for example. My chapter analyses when and why Malay Muslims invoked the Ottoman Caliphate in resistance movements against British colonisation on the Malay Peninsula.
The chapter is called ‘We Hope to Raise the “Bendera Stambul”: British Forward Movement and the Ottoman Caliphate on the Malay Peninsula’.
As the book is acquired by Australian libraries, holdings should begin to appear in Trove, the online catalogue of the National Library of Australia.