Part of the Spring 2018 MENAS Colloquium Series
Demon engineers, princes in disguise and proto-Muslim superheroes who foil the plans of diabolical kings. South Asian motifs are scattered across the writings of the Hijaz and Southern Arabia from the Middle Ages through the mid-twentieth century. Often dismissed as myth and legend, are such stories of little use for the modern historian? As part of a larger work that explores the creation of Muslim community in British Aden, this talk examines a particular Indian Ocean imaginary fashioned by Arab writers through the "fantastic" that illuminate the "seen" and "unseen" connections between themselves and India that help redraw our understandings of region and geography within the Indian Ocean littoral.
Scott Reese is a historian of Islam in Africa and the western Indian Ocean focusing especially on comparative histories aimed at breaking down many of the regional and geographic categories currently in use across the academy. His main research interests are comparative Sufism, modern Muslim discourses of reform, and the construction of world systems both in fact and imagination since 1500. His most recent monograph, Imperial Muslims (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), examines the role of Muslim religious discourse in mediating the social consequences of empire. Focusing on the British Settlement of Aden, located in present-day Yemen, this new book explores how Muslims from across Britain’s empire used the commonality of their faith to fashion a new community within the spaces created by imperial rule.