Special Double Issue: Vol. 25, no. 2-3
Forum: European Encounters with Islam in Asia
Encountering Islam in the Early Modern World
Matthew Lauzon, Matthew P. Romaniello, 195
When Filip Efremov recorded his extensive travel experiences throughout the Muslim world at the end of the eighteenth century, his descriptions of the people he encountered would have been familiar to many Western writers recording their experiences in India or Central Asia. Efremov represented the Enlightened West, observing the customs of Muslims with an “Orientalist” eye—noting their “weak and timid” demeanor, not to mention their “rough manners.”2 Two notes here might have struck another foreign observer as remarkable. First, the non-Muslim Indians are admirable, at least as a slight improvement in comparison to the Muslims. Second, the Muslims of India resembled the nomadic Turkmen, a group more familiar to the Russians. The implication, of course, was that Russia’s ability to control “its” Muslims could translate into the ability to control India’s Muslims, thus extending Russia’s borders quite far to the south.
Bad Bread and the “Outrageous Drunkenness of the Turks”: Food and Identity in the Accounts of Early Modern European Travelers to the Ottoman Empire
Eric R. Dursteler, 203
During the early modern era foodways were an important signifier of identity. This is evident in the extensive body of literature produced by the growing number of Europeans who ventured into the Mediterranean, especially the lands of the Ottoman Empire. These travelers commented at length on the foods they encountered, their preparation, and how they were consumed. They drew on widely known classical models, as well as their own familiar foodways, to produce culinary geographies that delineated stark boundaries between East and West, Islam and Christianity, and that inscribed alterity and barbarity onto Ottoman culture. Ottomans ate undercooked bread, adulterated with seeds and spices, and meat prepared in an unrefined fashion that was barely removed from its natural state. They consumed this food while seated on the ground and without the benefit of civilized utensils, and hypocritically washed it all down with large quantities of wine. In the early modern Mediterranean world who you were was defined, at least partly, by what you ate and how you ate it.
This paper addresses the importance of commercial expansionism and cultural exchange in maritime Southeast Asia as both were foundational to Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British encounters with Islamic traders and regional ports of trade circa 1500–1700. Portuguese conquest of the Islamic sultanate of Melaka in 1511 and their subsequent imposition of restrictions on Straits of Melaka transit set in motion the relocations of numbers of multiethnic Islamic, South Asian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian traders and seafarers to emerging regional Islamic and Buddhist ports of trade. Local conversions to Islam and alternative developments of networked Buddhist institutions paired with that era’s economic and political opportunities in support of functional regional polities (represented in case studies of Banten, Ayutthaya, and Banjarmasin), which negated initial European East India Company ambitions to dominate regional trade.
The Perception of Reception: The Importance of Sir Thomas Roe at the Mughal Court of Jahangir
Mehreen M. Chida-Razvi, 263
Sir Thomas Roe, sent as an official ambassador from King James I of England to the Mughal court of Jahangir in 1615, was a prolific writer during his time in the Mughal Empire. In Roe’s writings, he vividly portrays the importance he associated with his position as a royal ambassador, the stress he placed on his position at the Mughal court, and the self-perceived intimacy of his relationship with Jahangir. By examining Roe’s journal and letters, the contemporary autobiographical memoirs of Emperor Jahangir, and significant examples of contemporary Mughal painting, this article will investigate the reasons for Roe’s self-perceived importance to Jahangir, and Jahangir’s corresponding take on Roe and England. It will conclude that while Roe purposefully projected an image of self-importance at the Mughal court in his writings to enhance his status in England, his perceived reception by Jahangir was not the reality of the situation. Roe’s time at Jahangir’s court did not enhance the political status of England within the Mughal Empire; instead, his embassy served to increase the span of Jahangir’s visual imagery of power.
In medieval times, Christians on the Iberian peninsula fought wars to expel Muslim rulers from Europe. This protracted conflict, known as the Reconquista, was concluded in 1492 when the last of the Muslim rulers surrendered. Less than a hundred years later, in 1565, the Spanish Empire’s conquering impulse had carried it across two oceans into Southeast Asia, where Christian Spaniards, once again, confronted and fought against Islam. Though there are distinct differences between these two Christian-Muslim conflicts, there are also important similarities. As the Reconquista had done in Spain, Christian-Muslim conflicts in the Philippines—known as the Moro Wars—shaped local perceptions of Islam, established political and cultural boundaries, and attached personal loyalties to one or the other of these two global religions. This paper analyzes this process by focusing on two Christian conquests of Moros. The first of these was the conquest of Manila. When the Spanish arrived, Manila was a developing Moro settlement with ties to Islamic rulers on Borneo, Mindanao, and Jolo. Over several decades the Spanish gradually coopted Moro authority in Manila, and then finally expelled it through the prosecution of several conspirators involved in the Tondo conspiracy. This conquest established the political and cultural center of the colony and its emerging multiethnic colonial community. The second conquest happened on Min danao. Unlike the conquest of Manila, the conquest of Mindanao was never completed. Though the Spanish colony won several battles, Moro authority continued to thrive in the region. By focusing on the triumphal entry of a Spanish army following one of these victories, this paper shows how the constant Christian-Muslim conflict reaffirmed and gave personal meaning to the boundaries separating the Moros and the Christians in the archipelago. Together these two different conquests demonstrate how the revival of the Reconquista contributed to the creation of the Philippine colony.
The Cartography of Herman Moll and European Views of Muslim South Asia, 1700–1730
Alexander M. Zukas, 311
This paper will discuss the work of the premier British cartographer of the early eighteenth century, Herman Moll, and his depictions and descriptions of the Muslim areas of South Asia (Mughal India and the Indonesian archipelago in particular). Moll was a strong proponent and propagandist of British overseas expansion, South Asia being one area of particular interest to him. His maps disseminated and popularized information and perspectives brought back by European merchants, travelers, and pirates and were meant to be purchased by (mainly) British merchants, elites, and wealthy commoners interested in understanding Muslim Asia and the opportunities and challenges for British economic and political interests in that part of the world. Moll’s visual and graphic vocabulary highlighted European commercial and political contact with the societies and empires of South Asia. His maps functioned as strategic documents about British engagement with Muslim South Asia and showed the possibilities and limits of significant cross-cultural encounters during his active cartographic period (ca. 1700 to ca. 1730), a time when an emerging British Empire encountered well-developed indigenous empires in South Asia.
This article examines the role played by Marie Petit (b. 1673) in the French diplomatic mission to Safavid Iran from 1706 to 1708. The paper situates her among the small group of French women who exercised diplomatic authority in the reign of Louis XIV and highlights the particular roles played by gender and religion in Petit’s arrest and incarceration. The article argues that while Petit’s gender and alleged sexually illicit behavior may have been used by her opponents as one of the main pretexts for incarcerating her, it was by no means unheard of for French women to exercise diplomatic authority under Louis XIV, and some of these women were similarly accused of illicit sexual behavior. In order to explain why French authorities were so hostile to Petit’s playing a leading role in the French diplomatic mission after the appointed envoy, Jean-Baptiste Fabre (ca. 1650–1706), died in Yerevan, the article emphasizes the perception among certain French authorities that Petit was threatening French interests in promoting Catholic missionary work in the Levant and in supporting the Uniate Armenian Christians against the “schismatic,” or Gregorian, Armenian Christians.
The British colonial state in India, as part of establishing key sites of law and order, constructed certain tribes, groups, castes, and individuals as “criminals.” These criminal definitions came to play a prominent role in imperial criminal justice policies in India. This type of construction of criminality in the colonies also portrayed the stereotypical sense of the West, who depicted the indigenous in the East among other things as “criminals,” “robbers,” “rebels,” “docile Hindus,” “fanatic Muslims,” “untrustworthy Arabs,” and so on. Such nomenclatures were invented to describe how those groups reacted against the colonial invasion and were an important tool in delegitimizing such local uprisings. The discourses to label the non-Western population as inherently dangerous in the colony were also to alleviate its own fears and anxieties. An array of colonial scholars have worked on the making of criminal communities and groups in northern India through the discourse of race, caste, and tribe, especially Thuggees and Sansis, who were known for their perceived criminal propensities. Most studies on native criminality in colonial India have focused on the mid or late nineteenth century, with special reference to the ways and reasons by which the native tribes, peasants, and groups were labeled “criminals” by the colonial state. This paper looks into the ways in which “native criminality” was perceived during the early days of British rule in India, with special reference to the British rule in Malabar, where the colonial state maneuvered to classify certain sections of the Malabar population as distinct from the rest.
Islam in Hegel’s Triadic Philosophy of Religion
Sai Bhatawadekar, 397
In this paper I parse Hegel’s evaluation of Islam as a “fanatic” religion in his triadic dialectical structure as he applies it to God and religion: Hegel seeks three aspects for his assessment of Islam, namely (1) how the abstract divine concept—God—is conceived, (2) how finite human particularity functions, and (3) if and how the latter reconciles with the former. Hegel argues that in Islam God is a universal divine absolute, but man has no other function than to be a believer and a fearful servant. There is no sublation between God and man—that is, finite humanity is not truly raised to reconcile with the divine infinity. This is Hegel’s philosophical way to awkwardly address the untimeliness of Islam: in his teleological history, which moves toward progress from ancient East to modern West, Islam is problematic. As it arrives later than Christianity it can potentially qualify for being more evolved than it, thus challenging the very core of Hegel’s philosophy of religion. Finally, I bring two instances of applied Hegelianism: Zizek’s idea of Judaism—Christianity—Islam as a progressive dialectic triad in its own right, and John Oliver’s hilarious explanation on The Daily Show of Islam’s “age” and its current “awkward teenage phase.” Hegel would never agree to such interpretations, which is precisely why these expansions of Hegelian thought expose the weakness of his all-encompassing system.
Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800–1900 by Julia Clancy-Smith
reviewed by James Mokhiber, 425
Makers of Modern India by Ramachandra Guha
reviewed by Venkat Dhulipala, 430
The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain ed. by Simon Gunn and James Vernon
reviewed by David A. Campion, 434
Invisible Romans by Robert C. Knapp
reviewed by Christopher J. Fuhrmann, 437
Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India by Neeti Nair
reviewed by Kavita Saraswathi Datla, 440
Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean by Gillian Weiss
reviewed by Leos Müller, 444
The Return of Hans Staden: A Go-Between in the Atlantic World by Eve M. Duffy and Alida C. Metcalf
reviewed by Ana Lucia Araujo, 446