ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Religion, Language, Memory and Materiality

Monsoon Malabar

Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast edited by Sebastian R Prange, Cambridge University Press, 2018; pp xvi + 344, £90.

Malabar in the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region edited by Mahmood Kooria and Michael Naylor Pearson, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018; pp xxvii + 396, 1,495.

The last two decades have seen a huge leap in the studies on the pre-colonial Indian Ocean region in general and that of Malabar in particular. The younger generation scholars, emerging from various disciplinary realms, influenced by the critical humanities discourses, have taken up a vast range of new themes to locate Malabar and its various religious and caste communities. As the southern and south-eastern Asian parts of the Indian Ocean littoral have gained remarkable attention from both vernacular and anglophone scholars, new research areas have moved beyond the earlier trends that mainly focused on political history, trade routes, and commodity circulations in the Indian ocean region (Ayyar 1938; Bouchon 1988; Das Gupta 1960; Panikkar 1929; Subrahmanyam 1990). Following these studies, scholarship on the Indian Ocean region that emerged in the 1980s examined different layers of Islam that included martyrdom, holy war, violence and communalism (Dale 1980). In the 1990s, there emerged a new trend which explored the multiple coexistences of cultural communities in Malabar and the tensions prevalent within them (Narayanan 1972; Eaton 2000; Miller 1992).

As the early anglophone scholars—most of whom were barely familiar with the local language Malayalam—continued to explore Malabar with limited archival sources, a substantial volume of studies was carried out by scholars from the region itself. Enlarging the canvas of the region’s historiography, these studies, in Malayalam and English, engaged with issues such as the caste system, popular culture, textual traditions, and land and money relations.1 Based on local sources, written in various forms of Malayalam language, these studies strengthened our understanding of the region, as most of the anglophone Indologists remained unfamiliar with the precolonial local textual traditions and non-port town agrarian villages of Malabar.

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Updated On : 27th Jan, 2021

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