Teren Sevea

Feb 10, 2021

Miracles and Material Life

Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya

Cambridge University Press 2020

purchase at bookshop.org

In Miracles and Material Life: Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya (Cambridge UP, 2020), Teren Sevea reveals the economic, environmental and religious significance of Islamic miracle workers (pawangs) in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Malay world. Through close textual analysis of hitherto overlooked manuscripts and personal interaction with modern pawangs readers are introduced to a universe of miracle workers that existed both in the past and in the present, uncovering connections between miracles and material life. Sevea demonstrates how societies in which the production and extraction of natural resources, as well as the uses of technology, were intertwined with the knowledge of charismatic religious figures, and locates the role of the pawangs in the spiritual economy of the Indian Ocean world, across maritime connections and Sufi networks, and on the frontier of the British Empire.

Teren Sevea is a scholar of Islam and Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia, and received his PhD in History from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before joining Harvard Divinity School, he served as Assistant Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Sevea is the author of Miracles and Material Life: Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya (Cambridge University Press, 2020), and co-edited Islamic Connections: Muslim Societies in South and Southeast Asia (ISEAS, 2009). He is currently working on a forthcoming book entitled Singapore Islam: The Prophet's Port and Sufism across the Oceans.

Kelvin Ng hosted the episode. He is a Ph.D. student at Yale University, History Department. His research interests broadly lie in the history of imperialism and anti-imperialism in the early-twentieth-century Indian Ocean circuit.

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