Sayyidi ‘strangers’ and ‘stranger-kings’, borne on the eighteenth-century wave of Hadhrami migration to the Malay-Indonesian region, boosted indigenous traditions of charismatic leadership at a time of intense political challenge posed by Western expansion. The extemporary credentials and personal talents which made for sāda exceptionalism and lent continuity to Southeast Asian state-making traditions are discussed with particular reference to Perak, Siak and Pontianak. These case studies, representative of discrete sāda responses to specific circumstances, mark them out as lead actors in guiding the transition from ‘the last stand of autonomies’ to a new era of pragmatic collaboration with the West.
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