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Religions on the Move series: "Diasporic Devotions"

Thursday, March 21, 2024 at 5:00pm to 6:15pm

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room
29 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Associate Professor Aliyah Khan from the University of Michigan will give a talk titled  "Diasporic Devotions: The Indo-Caribbean Islamic Qasida and Gendered Performance" on Thursday, March 21. 

The Indo-Caribbean Islamic qasida is a diasporic devotional song that propagates Indian subcontinental Islamic ritual practices and preserves the use of Urdu in the post-indentureship Caribbean through performances of religious authenticity. But it is simultaneously creolized in transliteration and translation, in part through Muslim women’s participation in public worship. This talk explores the gendered and racialized performances, songbook and vinyl record dissemination, and transliterated creolization of Urdu qasida poetic, devotional praise songs brought to Trinidad and Guyana by Indian Muslim indentured laborers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

In this lecture, Khan focuses on the evolution of women’s public devotional and competitive performances of qasidas in the Indo-Caribbean Muslim context of sectarian Sunni and Ahmadi differences, local engagement with global revivalist principles of bid’a (innovation), and the controversial emergence of women’s performance categories in new qasida competitions supported by nation-states and commercial interests. Indo-Caribbean women’s qasida performances, Khan argues, lie at the intersection of Indo-Caribbean postcolonial political identity—which is historically and continually defined by Indian women’s culturally “proper” dress, sexuality, and public behavior in visible opposition to Afro-Caribbean women—and worldwide Muslim debates and tensions over global and local iterations of Islam.

Dr. Aliyah Khan is an associate professor in the University of Michigan (U-M) Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and the Department of English Language and Literature. She is also the Director of the U-M Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC). Dr. Khan specializes in postcolonial Caribbean literature and the contemporary literature of the Muslim and Islamic worlds, with a particular focus on the intersections of race, gender, and Islam in the hemispheric Americas, including in immigrant communities in North America. She has also presented and taught widely in the field of Muslim representation in comics and graphic novel. She is on the editorial board of Bloombsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies.

Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean (Rutgers University Press and University of the West Indies Press 2020), Dr. Khan’s first book, is the first academic monograph on the literature, history, and music of Caribbean Islam, focusing on Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica, and on enslaved Muslim West Africans, indentured Indian colonial sugar plantation laborers, and their Muslim Caribbean descendants. Far from Mecca garnered honorable mention in the 2020-2021 Modern Language Association Prize for a first book. Dr. Khan is currently conducting research for a literary and musical book project on Caribbean hurricanes and climate change, including religious responses, reparations debates, and other community-oriented environmental mitigation strategies.

This lecture is part of the 'Religions on the Move' lecture series sponsored by the Religious Studies Program which is supported by a grant from Cornell University’s Migrations Global Grand Challenge and the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative. Additional support from the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, Society for the Humanities, Comparative Muslim Societies Program, and South Asia Program.

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Religious Studies Program, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Migrations, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Comparative Muslim Societies Program, South Asia Program

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cascal, relstcal, Einaudi, cosochum

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Aliyah Khan

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University of Michigan

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