Abdur Rahoof Ottathingal “Translocal Mediations in Vernacular Islam: Arabi-Malayalam and Trans-Formations of Muslim Textual Culture in Malabar (16th -20th c.)”
Translocal Mediations in Vernacular Islam: Arabi-Malayalam and Trans-Formations of Muslim Textual Culture in Malabar (16th -20th c.)
My study is a historical anthropology of a south Indian Islamic textual culture called Arabi-Malayalam. Beyond a wide variety of themes, genres and manifest lexical plurality, it is the adaptation of Arabic script for writing local language (Malayalam) that is featured prominently in this tradition. The practice shows historical connections with some similar traditions in South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Iberian Peninsula. Placing beyond nativistic, nationalistic and Islamicist frames, and attending to more intra-Asian, Indian Ocean and Islamic cultural crossroads my study tries to historically situate Arabi-Malayalam in global and vernacular time. By considering language, religion and region as central categories my attempt is to tell the tangled story of global movement of Arabic script and local sites of Islamic interactions, focusing on the trajectory of khat funnani and Malabari script from the 16th to 20th centuries. The study considers five Arabi-Malayalam texts, from the earliest, the 17th, to the 19th centuries, explaining the religio-cultural and socio-political contexts of the major genres and their temporal shifts. My interdisciplinary enquiry into the trans-formations of Malabari Islam, thus, hopes offering new frame of thinking about diversity and commonality of Islamic communities and textualities around the globe, taking vernacular mediations and translocal networks together.
Abdur Rahoof is currently a PhD researcher in the Institute for History, Leiden University, Netherlands – [an Erasmus Mundus-IBIES fellow, Cosmopolis Programme @ Colonial and Global History divison], writing a thesis titled “Arabi-Malayalam and the Making of Vernacular Islam in Malabar, South India: Cultural Trans-Formations across Indian Ocean in 17th – 20th centuries”. He has been into a PhD research with Junior Research Fellowship of UGC-India at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on the topic “Sufi Everyday and Islamic Publics: A Sociology of Islam in Contemporary Kerala” [2010-13, to be submitted]. He received an M.Phil. (2010) in Sociology & Social Anthropology at JNU, New Delhi, (dissertation: Language, Religion and History: Arabi-Malayalam and Vernacular Islam among Mappila Muslims of Kerala), and a Masters (2008) in Sociology. He had done Bachelors in Sociology at the University of Calicut (2002- 2005), also courses in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Research areas: Textual culture in Arabi-Malayalam, regional histories of Arabic script, trade and textual circulations across Indian Ocean, Sufism and modern Islamic reformism, Islamic texts against colonialism in Malabar, sociology of songs and literature, and Anthropology of Islam in South Asia.