ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

01 – Bengali Muslim Societies and Literatures, c.1600-1947

Over the 17th-20th centuries, a distinct Bengali Islam emerged from a combination of its unique geography, culture, language, and populations. The form, content, and spread of Bengali Islam was different to developments in Muslim societies in North India or elsewhere.

Convenors

Layli Uddin - Queen Mary University of London
Richard David Williams - SOAS University of London

Long Abstract

Over the 17th-20th centuries, a distinct Bengali Islam emerged from a combination of its unique geography, culture, language, and populations. The form, content, and spread of Bengali Islam was different to developments in Muslim societies in North India or elsewhere. This has been affirmed in recent scholarship on Muslim literary arenas, on seventeenth-century Muslim poetry (Irani 2021), court poets and aestheticians working in east Bengal and Arakan (d’Hubert 2018), re-framings of popular Sufi literature (Stewart 2019), dobhāṣī print culture (d’Hubert 2018, Bose 2014), and late-colonial Muslim literary arenas (Halder 2022).

This panel invites papers that examine Muslim literary and cultural works from c.1600 to 1947, to explore how far texts and trends from across this long period can challenge or affirm established narratives about Bengali Islam. The panel seeks to move beyond and push against existing frameworks of syncretism and translation, to ask what—if anything—was fundamentally new and transformative about Bengali Muslim aesthetics, imaginaries, and politics? The panel will explore the relationship between texts and politics, economy and society to better understand the world that intersected with literary arenas. Finally, the panel invites contributions that complicate understandings of Islamic reform in the late 19th and 20th century, re-examining and blurring the boundaries between ideas of tradition and reform, orthodox and heterogenous, and exploratory and prescriptive authority. We invite papers that explore these key debates and challenge our understanding of Bengali Muslims over this long period. In particular, we are interested in work that explore authors, societies, or literary arenas from less-studied locales, outside of the metropolises of Dhaka or Calcutta, and scholarship that locates Bengali texts within a multilingual landscape.