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Becoming Arab
Creole Histories and Modern Identity in the Malay World


Part of Asian Connections

  • Date Published: November 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316647493

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About the Authors
  • Sumit K. Mandal uncovers the hybridity and transregional connections underlying modern Asian identities. By considering Arabs in the Malay world under European rule, Becoming Arab explores how a long history of inter-Asian interaction was altered by nineteenth-century racial categorisation and control. Mandal traces the transformation of Arabs from familiar and multi-faceted creole personages of Malay courts into alienated figures defined by economic and political function. The racialisation constrained but did not eliminate the fluid character of Arabness. Creole Arabs responded to the constraints by initiating transregional links with the Ottoman Empire and establishing modern social organisations, schools, and a press. Contentions emerged between organisations respectively based on Prophetic descent and egalitarianism, advancing empowering but conflicting representations of a modern Arab and Islamic identity. Mandal unsettles finite understandings of race and identity by demonstrating not only the incremental development of a modern identity, but the contested state of its birth.

    • Depicts a history of an ethnic identity without resorting to stereotypes, demonstrating its dynamic and contested character
    • Demonstrates both the reach and limits of colonial power
    • Reveals long-standing patterns of intermixing despite colonial categorisation and racial control
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Mandal makes an important and original contribution to our understanding of Arabs and Arabness in the Malay world, as well as to the history of colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. His lucid and accessible style makes Becoming Arab a pleasure to read. This ground breaking work will provoke various conversations that will further enrich our knowledge of the topic.' Ronit Ricci, Hebrew University, Israel

    'Becoming Arab presents rich, engaging and original material on Arabs in the Malay world and makes a powerful case for deeper exploration of creole and transnational histories; it makes an important contribution to Southeast Asian history and colonial history, to the study of contemporary identity, ethnicity, and race, to understandings of the salience of race and ethnicity in the making and maintenance of modern nation states.' Iza Hussin, University of Cambridge

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316647493
    • length: 280 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 164 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 3 maps 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. A Creole Malay World:
    1. Lord Sayyids
    Part II. Colonial Transformation:
    2. From sea to land
    3. Categorisation and control
    4. Scholarship and surveillance
    Part III. Modern Identity:
    5. Turning to Istanbul
    6. Sayyids remade
    7. The contested state of modern Arab identity

  • Author

    Sumit K. Mandal, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus
    Sumit K. Mandal is an Associate Professor in the School of Politics, History, and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus. A historian interested in the transnational architecture of Asian societies, Mandal does research on Muslim societies in the Malay world – in relation to the Indian Ocean – as well as contemporary Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. His writing has appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and Citizenship Studies. Previously, he worked at the National University of Malaysia and Humboldt University in Berlin, and held fellowships at New York University and Kyoto University, Japan. He is on the editorial board of Philological Encounters.

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