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ARABIAN HUMANITIES 2022 CALL FOR PAPERS : Back to Asia ? South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula

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Coordinators : Hasan Alhasan (International Institute for Strategic Studies), Philippe Pétriat (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, CEFREPA), and Aurélie Varrel (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, CEIAS)

The aim of this special issue is to elicit an inter-disciplinary discussion on the mutual constitution of the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Academic narratives from multiple disciplines have often treated the interactions between these two regions – whether in the form of trade, migration, inter-state diplomacy, cultural exchange, etc. – as occurring between already constituted social or political agents. It largely ignores the thickness and co-constitutive nature of their relations, with power asymmetries changing in the long term. In the field of contemporary International Relations for instance, scholars have tended to privilege the inter-state interactions of South Asian and Arabian Peninsula states, ignoring for example the role of South Asians – who often held key positions in the region under British rule – in the historical formation of the Arabian Peninsula states (Bose, 2009). In the field of history, the assumption of strong and unilateral influences dating back to the Arab invasion and domination over the Sindh region, considered as a stepping-stone for the diffusion of Islam towards East, leaves many facets unveiled (MacLean, 1989 ; Asif, 2016).

In contrast with such treatments, this special issue privileges the co-constitutive aspects of the Arabian Peninsula’s relations with South Asia. The two regions have arguably had a profoundly formative influence on one another’s historical trajectories, cultures, and social and political institutions. The “Indian Ocean turn” in Gulf and Arabian Peninsula studies emphasizes the long history of South Asian communities in the region and the lasting legacy of oceanic connections until the modern era. South Asian traders and travellers were key agents of globalization along economic and political networks driven by British imperialism between the Gulf, India and Africa, although they were probably only a few thousands (Onley, 2007 ; Mathew, 2016 ; Bishara, 2017). Pilgrims and scholars also had a lasting influence in the history of Islam and its sacred sites (Freitag, 2003 and 2020 ; Slight, 2015 ; Low, 2020). Recent archaeological surveys in Oman and Yemen emphasize the important volumes of trade and cultural exchanges from the Western Indian Ocean to the Red Sea (Rougeulle, 2015 ; Lambourn, 2017). Together with textual evidence, they provide promising insights into the economic, cultural, and material history of the medieval and early modern Arabian Peninsula and Gulf countries. We aim at highlighting such long-term connexions and mutual interactions, which challenges those narratives that tend to view the migratory, economic, and cultural links between India and the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula as a recent by-product of the latter’s economic modernization of the post-1970s.

Conversely, the role of Arab scholars, religious practitioners, traders, and soldiers in the constitution of States, political parties, trading and religious communities of South Asia is known only partly. The multilocal and complex journeys of such mobile individuals left scattered sources, available in various languages, that are more difficult to grasp (Ho, 2006 ; al-Ghunaym, 2016 ; al-Hijji, 2004 ; al-Harbi, 2017 and 2021). Yet the crucial role of circulations created geographies and places that put in touch communities as captured by a growing amount of academic and non-academic publications (al-Bassam, 2008 and 2016 ; Ramadan, 2018). Gujarat, today a state on the northwest coast of India, played a pivotal role in the sixteenth century on the maritime itineraries between the Red Sea and Melaka pass (Ho, 2006). Bombay ‘was to maritime itineraries in the second half of the nineteenth century what Dubai would become to aeroplane journeys in the second half of the twentieth’ (Green, 2011, 3). In spite of the formation of a community of Indian Ocean studies (Prange, 2007), the fragmentation of the scholarship is an additional obstacle, as South Asian publications in English are hardly known overseas, not to mention scholarship in Arabic. This issue aims at helping to bridge this gap.

Although the Arab Gulf countries’ relations with the independent nation-states born out of the British Raj were arguably interrupted by Arab nationalism and early modernization in the 1950s and 1960s, the rapid economic growth that the Arab Gulf states witnessed in the 1970s onwards created a massive demand for Arab and South Asian workers. As a result, South Asian nationals have become major constituents in the workforces and populations of the Arab Gulf countries, with Indian nationals alone numbering over 8.5 million in 2020. The evocative story of Dubai’s transformation into a global city is one that recalls both the labours of South Asian workers who built its myriad skyscrapers and the flamboyant South Asian billionaires who inhabit them, as well as the major role of Dubai for South Asian capital as well as remittances to South Asia (Kanna, 2011). The Arab Gulf countries have therefore become a primary source of remittances to South Asia and, in addition to Iran, are also among India’s top sources of oil and gas. The changing geopolitics in the Indian Ocean and the Look East strategy currently reshape power relations between the Arab monarchies and South Asia, where the aspirations of majoritarian Hindu India to superpower status should not overshadow the demographic and strategic importance of its neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Authors are invited to explore the co-constitutive relations or interactions between the states and societies of South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula in historical and contemporary perspectives. While open to a range of methodologies, the coordinators of this special issue recognise that the emphasis on co-constitution may privilege thick descriptions and case studies over quantitative or synchronic comparative analysis. Inter-disciplinary contributions that trespass the boundaries of the fields of history, geography, sociology, political economy, political science, international relations, or others are welcome. Topics of papers may include, but are not limited to :

• South Asian bureaucrats and state formation in the Arabian Peninsula in the 20th century
• The settlement of Arab traders, scholars, soldiers and other in South Asian countries and their role in the economy, politics, and culture
• South Asian migration and economic modernisation in the Arabian Peninsula post-1973
• The circulation of religious ideas (incl. Salafism) and scholars between South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula and their influence on faith, rituals and communities
• The economic connections and the changes in economic relations between Arabian Peninsula and South Asian countries : trade, migration, finance, digital, etc.
• The various sorts of human migration between the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia, from work migration to tourism, health tourism, migration for education, etc.
• Images and representation of Arabs in South Asia/South Asians in the Arabian Peninsula
• Diplomatic alliance and competition in the new Indo-Pacific context

Articles can be written in Arabic, English, or French. Texts should be accessible to a multidisciplinary audience.
See Arabian Humanities’ publication guidelines : https://journals.openedition.org/cy/2010
The proposals (300-350 words) must specify main research questions and arguments, sources and the empirical basis of the proposed paper. They must also include a short biography of the author (name and surname, institutional affiliation and function, address, telephone number and e-mail address) and the main bibliographical references.
Articles must be between 8000 and 10 000 words, notes and bibliography included.

The proposals must be sent before December 12th, 2021 to : Hasan Alhasan (hasan.alhasan@kcl.ac.uk), Philippe Pétriat (Philippe.Petriat@univ-paris1.fr), Aurélie Varrel (avarrel@ehess.fr) and Dima As’ad (dima.asad@cefrepa.cnrs.fr).

The contributions are expected by March 13th, 2022.

Ref :
Asif, Manan Ahmed, A Book of Conquest, Harvard University Press, 2016.
al-Bassam, Khalid, Ya Zaman al-Khalij, Saqi, Beirut, 2002.
al-Bassam, Khalid, al-Najdi al-Tayyib : Sirat al-Tajir wa-l-Muthaqqaf Sulayman al-Hamad al-Bassam, 1888-1949, al-Mu’assasa al-‘arabiyya li-l-dirasat wa-l-nashr, Beirut, 2008.
Bishara, Fahad Ahmad, A Sea of Debt : Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780-1950, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Bose, Sugata, A Hundred Horizons, Harvard University Press, 2009.
Eaton, Richard M., India in the Persianate Age, 1000-1765, Penguin, 2019.
Freitag, Ulrike, Indian Ocean Migrants and State Formation in Hadhramaut : Reforming the Homeland, Brill, 2003.
Freitag, Ulrike, A History of Jeddah : The Gate to Mecca in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
al-Ghunaym, ‘Abdallah Yusuf, Qira’atun fi watha’iq usrat al-Nisf, Markaz al-Buhuth wa-l-Dirasat al-Kuwaytiyya, 2016.
Green, Nile. Bombay Islam : The Rreligious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
al-Harbi, Hissa, al-Buyutat al-Tijariyya al-Kuwaytiyya wa-l-Khalijiyya fi-l-Hind, Kuwait, 2021.
al-Harbi, Hissa, Tarikh al-‘Alaqat al-Kuwaytiyya al-Hindiyya : al-Mawsu‘a al-Kamila al-Musawwara, 1896-1965, Kuwait, 2017.
al-Hijji, Ya‘qub Yusuf, Ruznamat al-nukhiza ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Barrak, Markaz al-Buhuth wa-l-Dirasat al-Kuwaytiyya, 2009.
al-Hijji, Ya‘qub Yusuf, Ruznamat al-bahriyya al-Kuwaytiyya, Markaz al-Buhuth wa-l-Dirasat al-Kuwaytiyya, 2004.
Ho, Engseng. The Graves of Tarim. University of California Press, 2006.
Kanna, Ahmed, The City as Corporation, University of Minesotta Press, 2011.
Lambourn, Elizabeth, Abraham’s Luggage : A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Low, Michael Christopher, Imperial Mecca : Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj, Columbia University Press, 2020.
MacLean, Derryl N., Religion and Society in Arab Sind. Brill, 1989.
Mathew, Johan, Margins of the Market : Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea, University of California Press, 2016.
Onley, James, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj : Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century, Oxford University Press, 2007.
Prange, Sebastian R, “Scholars and the sea : A historiography of the Indian Ocean,” History Compass, 6-5, 2008, p. 1382-1393.
Ramadan, Farid, Al-Muhit al-Injlizi, Dar Su’al, Beirut, 2018.
Rougeulle, Axelle, Sharma : Un entrepôt de commerce médiéval sur la côte du Hadramawt (Yémen, ca 980-1180), Archaeopress, 2015.
Slight, John, The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865-1956, Harvard University Press, 2015.