Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
"Jawi Manuscripts and Violent Histories:
Gun Gurus and Shooter-Sufis in Late Nineteenth Century Malaya"
Teren Sevea, Assistant Professor, Department of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
This paper focuses upon Jawi manuscripts that contained the instructions of Sufis and ‘gun gurus’ along the late nineteenth century Straits of Melaka. In return for gifts, these gun gurus imparted a sharia of shooting to their Muslims and non-Muslim clients, and initiated them into Islamic cults. These manuscripts claimed that Malay gurus were members of a long lineage of gun gurus and shooter-Sufis. They moreover proposed that gurus alone knew the history and esoteric nature of firearms that were being used in the Malay world, and were ideally placed in Malayan forests to mediate iron, to negotiate with the spirits of firearms and bullets, and to craft (or cannibalise) guns and bullets. In this paper, particular attention is paid to the role of exchange and knowledge production. Munshis (scribes) for instance, had copied the instructions of gun gurus and traditions of Islamic shooting in manuscripts for European scholar-administrators. Munshis were encouraged to transcribe ‘autochthonous’ traditions, and histories, and to document ‘contentious’ religious knowledge that had been circulated orally and that was embodied by gun gurus. Furthermore, this paper focuses on a form of violent cosmopolitanism that is often neglected in academic literature on transnationalism, mobility and Sufism. It elaborates on how gun gurus, Sufis and Muslims appropriated western guns, and remembered elaborate Islamic histories of these guns. Whilst these gun gurus were connected to munshis and orientalists, they were otherwise plugged into circuits that linked them to Asian and European gun-makers, smugglers, hunters and revolutionaries.