Dr. Laurence Gautier, in discussion on “Muslim Colombo” (11 November 2022).
CSH is pleased to announce that Dr. Laurence Gautier, researcher and member of the History, Politics & Society area of the CSH, will be participating in the third seminar of the 4th series of the AISLS seminar as a discussant on “Muslim Colombo” by Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge) on Friday, November 11th, 10 AM EST (8:30 pm IST) .
Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkdumqqD0jHNS_Yw8eIP902b8CHVSEDLB1
ABSTRACT: This work-in-progress paper traces the memory of the Muslim past in the modern city of Colombo as a way of reflecting on the dynamics and experiences of minoritization. The paper begins,
intentionally with a failed exercise in empiricism, to see if coins,
maps and artefacts can help elucidate the precise and singular origins of Colombo taken in some contexts to be Muslim. They cannot. It then turns to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to consider the onset of Arabization, from orientalists to Muslim writers and intellectuals as this early history of the city was recycled and constantly edited. The final section of the paper, leaves objects and buildings for the objectionable discourses of race which circulated around the human body. In these various ways, this is an attempt to be historicist but also simultaneously to be critical of the power, production and hold of histories. It is also an exploration of the function of origin as a claim for Muslims and how this was felt physically and necessitated an insertion quite literally in the land through building mosques and through burial. It also points to the challenges Muslims faced in insisting on their presence in the city and having to constantly manipulate their narrations to keep ahead and abreast of the claim-making of other communities, Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu, for instance. It is an invitation to look back at well-known problems about minoritization in the historiography, from the perspective of the urban fabric and material culture of the capital and from the sombre realities faced by Muslim communities.