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Between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, a distinct form of Islamic thought and practice developed among Muslim trading communities of the Indian Ocean. In this episode of BIC Talks, economic historian and author of Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast Sebastian R. Prange, and Art historian and researcher, Ayesha Matthan explore the argument presented in Sebastian’s book, that this ‘Monsoon Islam’ was shaped by merchants not sultans, forged by commercial imperatives rather than in battle, and defined by the reality of Muslims living within non-Muslim societies. Focusing on India’s Malabar Coast, the much-fabled ‘land of pepper’, Prange speaks of how Monsoon Islam developed in response to concrete economic, socio-religious, and political challenges.
Sebastian R Prange
Sebastian R. Prange is an economic historian who researches the development of Muslim trade networks in the medieval Indian Ocean world. His recent book Monsoon Islam: Trade & Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast (Cambridge University Press 2018) has won major prizes in its field and is currently being translated into Malayalam (for Other Books, Kozhikode).
Sebastian received his PhD in South Asian history from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies in 2008 and has since held academic appointments in Canada, Germany, and the United States. He teaches at the University of British Columbia and lives in Vancouver, BC.
Ayesha Matthan is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University. Ayesha is interested in photojournalistic practices, culture and politics in the Indian subcontinent from the 19th century to the present day. She holds a Bachelors in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and a degree in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. She was subsequently an arts journalist with the national daily The Hindu in Bangalore.
Ayesha returned to New Delhi for a Masters in Arts and Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, followed by an MPhil degree. Her MPhil thesis is titled “From Courts, Studios to Bazaars: A Visual History of the Tawa’if in Colonial North India, late 18th to early 20th centuries”. It attempted to explore the tawa’if’s visual trajectory over a century and a half from court paintings, studio photography, to matchbox labels, in Awadh and Delhi. And to juxtapose her thus emerging coordinates over the extant orientalist, nationalist and postcolonial readings for a comparative critique. This work was presented at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge and Tate Britain.
Later, she was Research Scholar with the photography archive The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi and Communications Writer with the grantmaking organisation India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore. Ayesha has published with DAG Modern and The Alkazi Foundation.