Writing Muslim Women into Southeast Asian History
Harvard Divinity School
Location: Virtual Event
Sponsor: Harvard University Asia Center
This presentation focuses on some of the issues that confront a historian of Southeast Asia when dealing with a topic -- Muslim women -- for which there is a dearth of sources. This is particularly the case for the “early modern” period, that is, from around the 15th to the mid-19th century . Beginning with the early years of Islam in Southeast Asia, the talk will focus on six areas that I, a non-Muslim and born outside the region, feel deserve special attention because the nature of the evidence opens up possibilities for exploration but also imposes limitations. The first is the often fraught connection between legend and documented evidence; the second is the way in which religious change affected women; the third is gender relations and the Muslim family; the fourth concerns Islam’s appeal to women and how female piety was expressed; the fifth is the privileging of the elite and our relative ignorance of village life; the sixth is the problem of generalization across such a diverse region. The presentation serves as a reminder that “writing women into Southeast Asia history” is a laudable goal, but one that is only partially achievable.
Barbara Watson Andaya is a Professor in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and is a former director of the University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies. She was President of the American Association for Asian Studies from 2005 to 2006, and she has written extensively on women's history in Southeast Asia, and of late, on the localization of Christianity in Indonesia and Maritime Southeast Asia.