The Graves of Tarim narrates the movement of an old diaspora across the Indian Ocean over the past five hundred years. Ranging from Arabia to India and Southeast Asia, Engseng Ho explores the transcultural exchanges—in kinship and writing—that enabled Hadrami Yemeni descendants of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to become locals in each of the three regions yet remain cosmopolitans with vital connections across the ocean. At home throughout the Indian Ocean, diasporic Hadramis engaged European empires in surprising ways across its breadth, beyond the usual territorial confines of colonizer and colonized. A work of both anthropology and history, this book brilliantly demonstrates how the emerging fields of world history and transcultural studies are coming together to provide groundbreaking ways of studying religion, diaspora, and empire.
Ho interprets biographies, family histories, chronicles, pilgrimage manuals and religious law as the unified literary output of a diaspora that hybridizes both texts and persons within a genealogy of Prophetic descent. By using anthropological concepts to read Islamic texts in Arabic and Malay, he demonstrates the existence of a hitherto unidentified canon of diasporic literature. His supple conceptual framework and innovative use of documentary and field evidence are elegantly combined to present a vision of this vital world region beyond the histories of trade and European empire.
List of Illustrations
Note on Dates, Abbreviations, and Transliteration
Preface: Hadrami Society, an Old Diaspora
1. The Society of the Absent
2. Geography, a Pathway through History
3. A Resolute Localism
Conclusion to Part I: Making Tarim a Place of Return
II. GENEALOGICAL TRAVEL
4. Ecumenical Islam in an Oceanic World
5. Hybrid Texts: Genealogy as Light and as Law
6. Creole Kinship: Genealogy as Gift
Conclusion to Part II: Local Cosmopolitans
7. Return as Pilgrimage
9. The View from the Verandah
Concluding Remarks: Names beyond Nations
Engseng Ho is Frederick S. Danzinger Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Studies at Harvard University, and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
“An important contribution to the study of diaspora. . . . Elegant. . . . [A] very thorough study that deserves a wide readership.”—Intl Journal Of Middle East Stds (Ijmes)
“This exemplary ethnography offers a distinctive approach to the ‘anthropology of mobility’.”—Journal Royal Anthro Inst
“A wonderfully sophisticated analysis . . . . It will be seen as one of those few foreign books about the Arab world which richly deserve the name of classic. . . . A remarkable achievement.”—Dar Al-Hayat