ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

LANGUAGE, RELIGION AND RESISTANCE:Consolidation of the Mappila Identity (16th-17th Centuries)


Perumannil Sidhcik Ameen - University of Pennsylvania, South Asia Studies, Philadelphia, United States


45 – South Asian–Portuguese relationships from the fifteenth century to the present: Colonialism, interactions, and identities


 A century of Portuguese interaction with Malabar during the early modern period was crucial for the creation of vernacular Mappila Muslim identity, largely through means of vernacularisation of language, the proliferation of Arabi-Malayalam, and the consolidation of religious identity. The paper tries to locate various social transformations that happened to the Mappilas during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The contrast in the social condition will become the context in which the emergence of the Mappila vernacular will be looked at. I will locate the various ways through which both the Mappila language – Arabic and later Arabi Malayalam – and localised Shafi’i theological doctrines were used by the Mappila ulema and authors to formalise and sustain a sentiment of a ‘prosperous past’ and demand for colonial resistance. What the paper is tracing is the earliest atmosphere of shared resistance and distress against colonialism and its various allies. The memory of the past through narrations of the pre-Portuguese Malabar, the high social status Mappilas occupied, the success of Islam and heroic religious figures found a way into the Mappila literature. The key aspects of the paper will be changes in Mappila social and economic structures in their interaction with the Portuguese power followed by tracing how the image of Portuguese threat was used in the later periods for community consolidation against other western mercantile and colonial powers.