Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Department of Asian Studies; Department of Comparative Religion, Hebrew University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2002
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Comparative Literature, University of Michigan
Islamic Literary Traditions in Javanese and Tamil

The spread of Islam eastward into South and Southeast Asia represents one of the most important, and yet direly understudied, cultural shifts in world history. My project will examine a major movement of ideas and literary forms between these two regions that today form the greatest concentrations of Islam in the world. I will focus my inquiry on two communities that were in contact over many centuries across the Indian Ocean: Javanese and Tamil Muslims. Conducting research in both Indonesia and India I will examine selected works in Tamil and Javanese from three major corpuses: tales of the conversion to Islam, biographies of the Prophet, and hagiography of the Sufi “saint” Abdul Kadir Jilani. Through this textual study, I will examine the significance of a religious and cultural system, namely Islam, functioning as a medium between two different cultures. How did it “work”? What role did literature play in this process, and what does it teach us about the nature of literary transmission? What can we learn about our own global system of the present from examining an earlier, pre-modern version of globalization? Theoretically this work has been inspired by scholarship focusing on questions of origins, transmission and translation. It is situated at the crossroads of scholarship in Literature, Translation Studies, Religious Studies, History, and Global Studies.