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Tropes, Territories and Competing

Over 30 scholars from North America, Europe, South Asia, and Australasia will come together for an interdisciplinary Tamil Studies conference to be held at Trinity College, University of Toronto on May 11-14, 2006. All attendees are required to register for admission.

Susan Schomburg

Visiting Professor
Department of Religion
Swarthmore College

Lovely, Recalcitrant Women: Tay Tamil, Cultural Agency, and Islamic Histories
Saturday, May 13, 2006 | 14:00 - 16:00 EST

How does Islamic Tamil literature illumine Islamic Tamil history, and how does it relate to deep-seated controversy and energetic reformist movements in Islamic Tamil communities today? A survey of extant literature produced by Qadiri savants of Tamil Nadu (learned Islamic Tamil litterateurs affiliated with the Qadiri Sufi order), indicates both creative Islamic adaptation of traditional Tamil gendered literary themes as well as specific reformist agendas concerning Tamil Muslim women. This paper presents evidence from a variety of historical records and literary works to argue that marriage patterns in the Indian Ocean Islamic littoral communities and maraikkayar (Arab-settled) port towns, as well as more widespread Islamic norms of gender segregation, have contributed, historically, to gender- and Tamil culture-specific forms of Islamic practice in the Tamil region. These unique forms of Islamic practice have, in turn, decisively influenced contemporary local reformist discourse and activities.

Dr. Schomburg's research interests include Islamic Tamil history, culture and literature - historical, anthropological and literary study, including translation projects. Major future project will examine lives, thought, and literary works of the Tamil Muslim cittars including Kunankudi Mastan Sahib.