Seminar on multi-sited fieldwork on the pre-Islamic maritime world by Professor R. Michael Feener

DATE: 20 September 2018
TIME: 10:30-12:00
VENUE: Tonan Tei

TITLE: Tracing pre-Islamic pasts across the maritime Muslim world: Mutli-sited fieldwork and comparative reflections on ‘heritage’

Professor R. Michael Feener
Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
Faculty of History, University of Oxford (UK)

This paper explores a diverse range of historic Muslim experiences with and appreciations of pre-Islamic cultural legacies. Based upon multi-sited field and archival research in the Arab lands, Indonesia, India, and the Maldives, this paper presents a series of historical vignettes relating medieval and early modern encounters between Muslims and the material remains of past civilzations that remained visible in the lands that they lived. Such broadly comparative work presents a range of challenges, both theoretical and practical – but at the same time it allows for engagement with broader questions in ways different from those available to research based on single case studies. Taken together, the material presented here clearly demonstrates that there is no single, normative ‘Islamic’ approach to the cultural heritage of pre-Islamic civilizations. Rather, conversations about the meanings of the past for life in the present and visions of the future are dynamic discourses incorporating an expansive body of ideas and experiences across diverse communities.

Convenor: Associate Professor Julius Bautista

BIO: R. Michael Feener is the Sultan of Oman Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and Islamic Centre Lecturer in the History Faculty at the University of Oxford. He was formerly Research Leader of the Religion and Globalisation Research Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, and Associate Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore. He has also taught at Reed College and the University of California, Riverside, and held visiting professor positions and research fellowships at Harvard, Kyoto University, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), the University of Copenhagen, The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (Honolulu), and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands. He has published extensively in the fields of Islamic studies and Southeast Asian history, as well as on post-disaster reconstruction, religion and development. He is currently Head of the Maldives Heritage Survey.