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Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts

Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past

Derryl N. MacLean
Sikeena Karmali Ahmed
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts
    Book Description:

    This volume focuses on moments in world history when cosmopolitan ideas and actions pervaded specific Muslim societies and cultures, exploring the tensions between regional cultures, isolated enclaves and modern nation-states. Models from the past are chosen from 4 geographic areas: the Swahili coast, the Ottoman Empire/ Turkey, Iran and Indo-Pakistan. Each region is covered in 2 chapters, proving a basis for the comparison of specific cosmopolitan instances in Muslim contexts.Cosmopolitanism is a key concept in social and political thought, standing in opposition to closed human group ideologies such as tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism. Much recent discussion of this concept has been situated within Western self-perceptions with little inclusion of information from Muslim contexts; this volume redresses the balance.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4457-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts
    (pp. 1-9)
    Derryl N. MacLean

    This volume of essays is based on a conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and sponsored by the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (Aga Khan University, United Kingdom).¹ The orientation of the essays is on the typologies and contexts of Muslim or Islamicate cosmopolitanisms in the past and the possible tensions or conjunctions of these cosmopolitanisms with regional cultures, isolated enclaves, empires or modern nation-states.² The perspectives of the past chosen for comparison are sought not in the classical cosmopolitan venues (‘Abbasids...

  5. Chapter 2 Freeborn Villagers: Islam and the Local Uses of Cosmopolitan Connections in the Tanzanian Countryside¹
    (pp. 10-30)
    Felicitas Becker

    For centuries, the Swahili towns on the East African coast were part of far-reaching networks: traders and scholars, refined goods and cultural practices passed between the ports of Mombasa, Tanga or Zanzibar and other shores of the Indian Ocean, from Yemen to South Asia and beyond.² Their inhabitants appreciated and displayed their cultural and commercial connectedness in a way that corresponds to a basic understanding of a “cosmopolitan” mindset as “outward-looking; appreciative of cultural exchange, of the new and exotic”. Until recently, Western observers tended to treat them as anomalies on the edge of a barbarian continent full of rural,...

  6. Chapter 3 Interrogating “Cosmopolitanism” in an Indian Ocean Setting: Thinking Through Mombasa on the Swahili Coast
    (pp. 31-50)
    Kai Kresse

    “Any conception of ‘cosmopolitan society’ … ought to reflect the historical struggles on which it builds”.¹ This conviction, that Edward Simpson and I formulated when discussing a string of research projects on Islam and cosmopolitanism in the western Indian Ocean, might provide a guideline for this discussion of representative historical narratives of Mombasa, an ancient port town on the East African Swahili coast. As early as 1505, when the Portuguese first conquered and destroyed it, Mombasa was a city with about 10,000 inhabitants and multi-storey stone buildings; it was at the centre of Indian Ocean trade networks exchanging gold and...

  7. Chapter 4 Translators of Empire: Colonial Cosmopolitanism, Ottoman Bureaucrats and the Struggle over the Governance of Yemen, 1898–1914
    (pp. 51-67)
    Thomas Kuehn

    During the long nineteenth century, imperial administrators around the world were acutely aware that theirs was a time of heightened competition among different empires for control over resources and strategic positions. Increasing competition prompted British, Dutch, French, Ottoman and Russian policymakers to observe more closely the governmental techniques of other empire-states and made them more willing to learn from these techniques with a view to governing their own subjects more effectively and to better fending off the encroachments of their rivals.¹ From the mid-nineteenth century onward, the gathering and transmission of this imperial knowledge was greatly facilitated by the expansion...

  8. Chapter 5 Islampolis, Cosmopolis: Ottoman Urbanity Between Myth, Memory and Postmodernity
    (pp. 68-91)
    Ariel Salzmann

    On the morning of 23 January 2007, mourners gathered before the Istanbul headquarters of the Turkish–Armenian Agos newspaper at the point where, four days earlier, the editor-in-chief had been murdered. Within an hour their numbers had grown by tens of thousands. Together, they formed an enormous cortège that embraced the hearse carrying the body of the slain civil rights activist to the church. From verandas and windows along the route, or via televisions, computer monitors and cell phone cameras around the world, millions witnessed a silent multitude whose hands were held aloft with placards bearing black and white photographs...

  9. Chapter 6 Cosmopolitan Cursing in Late Nineteenth-Century Alexandria
    (pp. 92-104)
    Will Hanley

    In 1889, a dispute broke out in an alley in Damanhur, a large town near Alexandria. As Mohammad Effendi Safwat, tax collector for the local government, passed along the alleyway, he met Mohammad Abu ‘Agila, a twenty-five-year-old merchant of Tunisian origin, who was coming out of his house. The tax collector seized the encounter (and indeed may have planned it) to serve the Tunisian with a demand for payment of back taxes on his property. The Tunisian replied that, as a foreign subject, he was not required to pay any such tax. Witnesses claimed that he threw the assessment papers...

  10. Chapter 7 Kebabs and Port Wine: The Culinary Cosmopolitanism of Anglo-Persian Dining, 1800–1835
    (pp. 105-126)
    Nile Green

    Although better known for their commercial and scientific achievements, the travels of the small exploratory parties, which between 1750 and 1850 contributed to what William Goetzmann termed the “second great age of discovery”, were also parties of gastronomic discovery.¹ The intensified patterns of social interaction that emerged as these journeys became regularised into repeatable routes of commerce and diplomacy fed a growing appetite for travel writing in which the discussion of food habits played a significant and practical role.² Although largely recorded in the general books of travel that placed commercial and ethnographic data alongside geographical and historical observations, this...

  11. Chapter 8 Abdur Rahman Chughtai: Cosmopolitan Mughal Aesthetic in the Age of Print
    (pp. 127-155)
    Iftikhar Dadi

    The Lahore-based artist, Abdur Rahman Chughtai (1897–1975) is generally considered the first significant modern Muslim artist from South Asia. His art developed with an awareness of the early modern Islamicate cosmopolitan world, especially with Safavid Persia and Mughal India. But this relationship was also shaped by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century factors – the loss of symbols of political power in South Asia to colonialism beginning in the late eighteenth century, reaching its full dismemberment in the wake of the 1857 mutiny, and the further loss of the external identificatory symbol of the Ottoman Caliphate, which was dissolved in 1924. Chughtai...

  12. Chapter 9 Cosmopolitanism and Authenticity: The Doctrine of Tashabbuh Bi’l-Kuffar (“Imitating the Infidel”) in Modern South Asian Fatwas
    (pp. 156-175)
    Muhammad Khalid Masud

    This paper¹ examines the frequently held assumption that the quest for cultural authenticity and religious identity in present-day Muslim societies discourages cosmopolitanism. This assumption problematises the notion of cosmopolitanism as an issue of cultural authenticity. In order to understand the concept of cosmopolitanism as well as cultural authenticity in Islamic thought and practice, I have chosen to study the doctrine of tashabbuh bi’l-kuffar that forbids imitating non-Muslims and is, therefore, frequently cited as a decisive factor for cultural authenticity. G. E. Von Grunebaum² observed that this specific doctrine formed the basis of a sense of religious superiority that inhibited interaction...

  13. About the Contributors
    (pp. 176-179)
  14. Index
    (pp. 180-190)