All posts by Rémy Delage

PhD thesis: The Islamic monuments of Ahmedabad

Sara Keller, The Islamic monuments of the walled city of Ahmedabad, India (15-18th century): an archeological study. PhD thesis in Building Archaeology, University of Paris IV Sorbonne, France; and Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg, Germany, 16 October 2009.

“Unlike many medieval and modern royal urban foundations in the Indian subcontinent, the city of Ahmedabad survived till now as the politic and economic heart of Gujarat. Today, the historical Islamic monuments are the sole witnesses of the splendor of a city which used to controlled the trade ways linking Delhi and central India with the arabic countries and the eastern African coast. Our archeological study not only identified the vast corpus of Islamic monuments still existing of the walled city of Ahmedabad, it also permitted a detailed analysis of the sites and buildings, bringing informations concerning the evolution of architectural forms and technics over more than four centuries. Those researches brought new lights on the urban history of Ahmedabad and the history of Gujarat, as well as on the importance of the “Gujarati style” within the Indian architecture and the architecture of the islamic world. The study finally could show the survival, in Gujarat, of feudal systems deeply rooted in the local culture till the end of the 16th century, and the transition to a modern type of administration spread in India by the Mughal empire.”

Keywords: India, architecture, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Islam, mosque, mausoleum, madrasa, Sultanate, Mughal, minaret, sufi, art, jain, brahmanical, indic, urban structures, city, monuments, water, tank, measurement, proportion, vastu, ornementation, arche, technique, pietra dura.

 

Three panjrâs of Udero Lâl, translated by Charu P. Gidwani

Uderolal and the panjrâs

 

 

A representation of Uderolal on a booklet

 

 

 

Uderolâl, also known as Jhulelal, is God to some Sindhi-Hindu believers. Legend has it that Uderolâl was born as saviour of the people of Thatta in Sindh. The people here felt helpless when faced with the atrocities of the Muslim ruler Mirkshah who forced them to follow Islam. They offered prayers at the banks of river Sindhu (Indus). Uderolâl was an answer to their prayers. For the Sindhi-Hindus in India, He has become an important mark of identity; especially because they were forced to leave Sindh due to the Partition of India. Sindh is now in Pakistan. Jhulelal offers a distinct mark of identity to the community in India.

The panjrâs of Jhulelal are prayers sung to the glory of Jhulelal. It is the panjrâs that add to the liveliness of the bairanas, a festive occasion to offer prayers and thanksgiving to Jhulelal. The crowd gathered for the occasion, colourfully dressed, sing loudly the panjrâs to the beat of musical instruments. Of these the dhol, a kind of drum, is the most important. Another important instrument is the earthen pot, which is turned upside down and tapped rhythmically. Devotees accompany the music with their claps. As the force of the music and singing catches on devotees also start dancing.

About the translator

Charu P. Gidwani holds a PhD from Pune University, May 2004, Depiction of Childhood in the Works of Rabindranath Tagore. She is the daughter of a Sindhi linguist and lexicographer, Dr Parso J. Gidwani. She has inherited her love for Sindh and Sindhi from him. She teaches English Literature at RKT College, affiliated to the Mumbai University.

1. O my Jhulelal Sain

Mounted on a blue* horse, my Lal Sain
Riding a pallo* fish, my Lal Sain
Makes every Sindhi prosper, my Lal Sain
Makes us carry offerings* every year, my Lal Sain
Makes us keep bairanas*, fulfils all our wishes, my
Lal Sain
He is the true glory of Sindhunagar*, my Lal Sain
Ferries* everyone across, my Lal Sain
Fulfils hopes of devotees, my Lal Sain
At your feet, all bow their heads,
My Lal Sain, O my Lal Sain

Source: Anonymous panjra, Jhulelal Ji Mahima, second edition, April 2008, edited by Kavi Bharat (Bhagat) Bhatya, p. 14.

Glossary

blue: blue colour is the colour of gods, it represents divinity in the Hindu religion.

pallo: a kind of a fish that belongs to the clupa ilisha genre. Legend has it that Jhulelal, referred here as ‘Lal Sain’, had this fish for his vehicle. A special feature of this fish is that it swims against the current.

offerings: offerings to Jhulelal are made in pots, these are then immersed in a river or flowing water, after the bairana is
over.

bairana: it is an occasion to worship, offer prays, offer thanks to Jhulelal. One of the most important times of bairana is conducted is on Cheti Chand, the time, in March, marking the birth of Jhulelal. This is also the Sindhi New
Year.

Sindhunagar: This is the proposed name for Ulhasnagar, a place of British horse-stables converted to a camp for Sindhi
refugees. Literally, ‘Sindhunagar’ means ‘settlement of Sindhis’.

ferries everyone across: in Hinduism very often life is compared to an ocean. Faith in God, and God alone, can carry a human being safely across this ocean of life. To put it simply, faith in God makes life smooth.

2. O Lal keep my honour safe Jhulelan

This anonymous panjrâ is a favourite of Sufi singers in and around Sindh. Famous Sufi singers in Sindh, Punjab and  even Bangladesh have sung it.

Lal keep my honour safe* Jhulelalan*,
O thou of Sindhdi*, of Sewan*, of Sakhar*,
Hail Mast Qalandar*, we’ve Dulhe* in our hearts
Four lamps always burn at your shrine,
The fifth one I have come to light O Jhulelalan,
O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…
You bless mothers with children,
You safeguard fortunes of young girls*,
O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…
All who have lit the flame of Dulhe,
You fill their coffers Jhulelalan,
O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…
O Peer* of Peers come to the centre of the ocean,
In the name of the Lord ferry my boat across
Jhulelalan,
O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…

Sources: Jai Jhulelal Beda I Paar (Collection of stories, songs, prayers of Jhulelal), Ahemadabad; Ke Saahitun Sajanan Saan: Sain Dr Rochaldas Sahibun Ji Satsangi Rihaan (Some Conversations with Dr Rochaldas), by Shri H.M. Damodar, 1991.

Glossary

 

A representation of Jhulelal

 

 

‘Keep my honour safe’: is reference to the fact that the devotee has surrendered to God. Here the devotee pleads with God to keep his name, respect, dignity in society intact. That is all what the devotee seeks of God in humility.

Jhulelalan: the ‘an’ ending is the suffix used to show endearment.

Sindhdi: the ‘di’ suffix is one showing endearment. Literally, Sindhdi, means Sindh. Sewan, Sakhar: places in Sindh. Mast Qalandar: refers to Qalandar Lal Shahbaaz, a peer. History gives different versions of him. According to Dr Rochaldas, a well-known saint from Sindh, Shahbaaz Qalandar even met Jhulelal. Shahbaaz Qalandar, fond of excursions, breathed his last at Sehwan, where a shrine is built in his name. Because his name as well as Jhulelal’s name has ‘Lal’, today, many consider both names referring to one person. This song is a fine example of how the Sindhi mind is not rigidly fanatic about one religion. Here Jhulelal -a Hindu God- is seen as one with Mast Qalandar -a Muslim Peer.

Dulhe: another name of Jhulelal.

You safeguard fortunes of young girls: this is a subtle way of praying to Jhulelal that he bless young girls with good husbands. A girl’s getting married to a worthy boy was seen as all that was needed for her well-being. This concept of a girl’s good life has not changed much even today.

Peer: a peer is believed to be close to the Almighty. Peers are known to have shown miracles to save their followers from trouble. There have been many peers in Sindh. It is not unusual to hear of Sindhi Hindu families in India also knowing and believing a peer. Even today festivities are held related to one peer or the other which are attended in huge numbers by both Hindus and Muslims. Singing of folk devotional songs throughout the night are a special feature of these fairs. These fairs are held in Sindh (Pakistan) and also in Kutch (India) even today.

3. Panjrâ by Ram Panjwani

Ram Panjwani was a Sindhi writer (1911-1987). He has written many plays, novels, essays mainly on social issues. His most important contribution to the Sindhi community lies in the fact that he reintroduced Uderolâl to Sindhi-Hindus in India, especially in Ulhasnagar, after the Partition.

Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal
Lal Sain Uderolal
We, humble, full of vices,
Dulaah*, at your door sell ourselves*
Our state is not hidden from you
Please keep us well
Satguru* Sain* you fulfil our hopes
Babal* Sain you ferry us across the ocean of life
I am naked*, O pall-giver*
Saviour of the helpless
Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal Sain

Source: Bharatiya Sindhu Sabha, Mumbai, Volume VI, Oct-Nov 2000, “Sindhi of the Millenium: Bhagat Kanwar Ram”, Editor and Publisher: Mohan Motwani, 5, Sai Parsad, Shivaji Park, Mumbai 400028.

Glossary

Dulaah: a term for Jhulelal.

sell-ourselves: the idea here is that the devotee is worth nothing at the doorstep of God.

Satguru: ‘guru’ refers to teacher. ‘Sat’ refers to truth or the ultimate reality. Satguru here refers to Jhulelal.

Babal: endearing form of Baba. Baba is a term of reverence used to address any old man. Grandchildren usually address their grandfather as Baba.

Sain: term of address showing respect.

‘I am naked’: this line suggests complete surrender of the devotee to God. The devotee has nothing to hide from God. Pall-giver: God as giving the protective cover of the pall, covering the devotee’s nakedness to protect his honour.

MA dissertation: De-centering Devotion in Sehwan Sharif

Omar F. Kasmani, De-centering Devotion: The Complex Subject of Sehwan Sharif, MA thesis in Anthropology, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, 27 September 2009.

“Anthropological studies on ritual in South Asia have tended to emphasize an all-pervasiveness of the sacred so much so, it is alleged, that the non-sacred is rendered nonexistent. As a consequence, the “devotee” is imagined as a homogenous subject constituted under a unitary desire for submissive devotion. Complicating essentialist portrayals of the South Asian subject, the aim of this research is to situate multiple desires including devotion amongst shrine-goers at Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan.

The central framework of this study is informed by Ewing’s idea of “multiple subjective modalities”. Data from the field has been co-constructed in the researcher’s interaction with subjects in and around the shrine. By speaking of personal narratives, conflicts and motivations, the four primary and several secondary informants have illustrated a shared nexus of desires and subject positions; finding themselves at the forefront of various ideological battles, shrine-goers dexterously hold, respond to, associate with, and shift between, a number of subject positions.

The evidence for polyvocal subjects at the shrine of La`l Shahbâz Qalandar as documented in this research makes a case for a more complex exploration of ritual practitioners’ desires. In other words, by situating, at the level of the individual, an intersection of conflicting desires, it is argued, that shrine-goers operate, and in fact oscillate between, “multiple subjective modalities”.”

Keywords: subject/subjectivity, devotion, desire, Sehwan, shrine, shrine-goers

Interview with Richard K. Wolf, 2009

Richard K. Wolf is Professor of Ethnomusicology at Harvard University. While working first on the Kotas of South India, he did fieldwork on Shia and Sufi rituals in Pakistan. Dr Frédérique Pagani, a MIFS member, interviewed him in May 2009 about his fieldwork in Sindh, including his methodology.

How did you come to study Sufism?

I started out studying ritual drumming. I looked at all the different contexts in which drumming was important. I didn’t start out with the intention of doing something Sufi at all. There was a close connection between Sufi and Shia things in a kind of a popular realm even though rather strict Shias don’t necessarily like to be associated with Sufism; still, we found a Shia family for example that was in charge of a Sufi shrine in Punjab, and I guess this is not all that uncommon.

You talk about a kind of porosity of religious boundaries between Shia and Sunni in Sindh which was very interesting. What was your understanding of this situation in Sindh?

Among Sindhis, my impression was that Shias and Sunnis both practice Muharram in the same places and engage in some of the same kind of activities. In some processions, at least, both populations would be together; Shias would also be musicians and so the kinds of distinctions between the two groups, which is more pronounced in most urban areas and outside of Sindh, did not seem to be so pronounced even in the relatively urban area of Hyderabad.

You said that when you cannot attend a musical event, you ask the people to do a demonstration, can you explain in a more detailed way the way you work with the musicians? Perhaps if you take a precise example…

For example, the drummers who played on my video tape of Madho Lal Hussain, I took their names and addresses at the event because I couldn’t talk with them there. And then, I tracked them down later and had them come to my apartment in Lahore. There I had a longer discussion with them about what they were doing there and their relationship with the dancers; I asked them to play their versions of the different rhythms I had been studying.

In Lahore the best place to record and interview was at my home; there, other people would not come and interrupt us, give their own opinions, and things like that. But sometimes I was forced to discuss these things in crowded places where there were a lot of interlopers and distractions. It was sometimes difficult to find a place where drummers could demonstrate because it’s so loud. The drumming would alert people and they would wonder why it was going on.

Has it also something to do with the fact that, you’re explaining in your paper on Madho Lal that there are appropriate ways to do music and inappropriate ways. Is it sometimes inappropriate to do music in front of you? Is it disrespectful? For example if it’s a musical religious event and if it’s detached from the context, has it something which sounds a bit disrespectful?

No. Not in that way. It’s not disrespectful. There are a number of different kinds of issues. So like among the Kotas, if you play funeral music when it’s not a funeral, then you don’t play any of this stuff, loud instruments, outdoors except for maybe some celebratory and not particularly marked occasion; but it’s OK if you go at distance, away from the village. Because otherwise people think that there is a funeral and they start feeling bad and so people would come and say, “Don’t do that.”

As for Muharram performance, if a group of musicians agree to go out to an open field and play the different rhythms, it usually doesn’t matter. But in urban contexts it could matter. In one Karachi neighborhood, as I discussed in my Muharram drumming article in the Yearbook for Traditional Music, a community that supported Muharram drumming was under pressure to curtail this activity and a number of related rituals such as carrying the taziyah. Their processions and drumming during Muharram were sort of tolerated; but reformers didn’t really think that’s a proper way to observe Islam. So members of this community were under pressure not to go outside and perform for me even though it was still the general period of Muharram (but not the first ten days). They did it indoors for me. Sometimes playing out of immediate context can be a sensitive issue, but it’s not a matter of musicians lacking respect for the context of the music exactly.

You give the concept of emotion a fundamental place in your paper on Muharram drumming and in several other publications. Can you detail a bit more the relation between emotion and music?

Well I got interested in that mainly because of funerals. Many people have been interested in why there are celebrations even on occasions of mourning. I was particularly interested in how we deal with the combination of different emotions that are associated with occasions like this – and the fact that musical pieces or styles can be associated with some components that have explicit emotional connotations.

In your paper on Madho Lal Hussain, you speak of the `urs as a “highly heterogeneous event”. Can you explain the notion of heterogeneity in relation to the rituals and the way you try to deal with this?

I think it’s very hard to talk as if you are dealing with a single culture when you’re looking at a very complex event. So many things are going on at once. But it turns out that there are usually some themes that people hold in common. They might deal with them differently. We can’t just say: “This is so heterogeneous, there is nothing at all in common and we have no grounding whatsoever.” People experience the same kinds of events over and over and develop certain expectations that are based on that experience. They’re also exposed to certain kinds of poetry in the respective languages that brings up so called Sufi themes… So it’s inevitable that there is going to a certain amount of common knowledge.

That means that you really need to be used to the event…

Ideally yes. It’s pretty hard to get used to the events themselves, but the picture starts to look more cohesive when you put together general observations with the points that participants make repeatedly during interviews.

Can you explain for instance how you worked on precise events?

I usually heard that something was coming up and I would decide I would go; I didn’t necessarily have time to prepare…

Yes, for example, you record, you try to analyze this, you show it to the participants…

Yes, that’s what I try to do. I would record interviews. Back in 1996, I would go over the recordings carefully with my Urdu teacher, and listen for where our discussions were ambiguous; there was often an issue to be explored at such places in the interview. So in general just working through the materials in multiple ways is very helpful. Often I found out about interesting places to research from these interviews with drummers. I would ask them to tell me stories of what happened when they were playing or about the pieces. Then I would want to go and see them in those contexts.

More on Richard K. Wolf

Richard K. Wolf has written about classical, folk and tribal musical traditions in South India as well as on musical traditions associated with Shi’ism and Sufism in North India and Pakistan.

(ed.) Theorizing the Local: Music, Practice, and Experience in South Asia and Beyond,

Oxford University Press, New York, 2009.

The Black Cow’s Footprint: Time, Space, and Music in the Lives of the Kotas of South India, Permanent Black, 2005 and University of Illinois Press, 2006.

MA dissertation: The shrine of Hinglaj Devi in Baluchistan

Jürgen Schaflechner, Die Göttin Hiṅglāj Eine Untersuchung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer Bedeutung für die jāti der Brahmakṣatriya, MA thesis, Institut für Neuere Südasienstudien der Universität Heidelberg, 7 July 2009.

“Indological and Anthropological studies have for long ignored the shrine of Hiṅglāj Devi, or Nānī Mā as she is also called, in Baluchistan. This Magister thesis explores the narratives of this particular religious place and argues that its remote position and ancient history have, over the years, led to multiple and often overlapping mytho-historical oral traditions and writings. Such myths, often reflecting the socio-political changes of the area, are found among various religious communities and thus thwart a conventional segregation of religious taxonomies at the shrine. Due to such overlapping discourses the heuristic value of the concept of “Syncretism” is discussed and scrutinized for its usage within this case study.

The second part of the book focuses on the history and the symbolic interpretation of the shrine among one particular group, the Brahmakṣatriya/Khatrī caste of West Rajasthan. One of their main texts, the “Brahmakṣatriyotpatti Evaṃ Maṁ Hiṃgulāj” is given in translation from Hindi, to show how the goddess as a religious symbol, along with the power of a sanskritic-brahmanic discourse, are used to justify the caste´s claim to be of Kṣatriya origin.”

Keywords: Hinglaj Devi, Avar, Karni Mata, Carani Sagati, Lhatri Community, Brahmanksatriya, Parashurama, Mythology, Caran Community, Cultural Memory

PhD thesis: Shia-Ismaili Motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley

Hasan Ali Khan, Shia-Ismaili Motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley, 1200-1500 A.D., PhD thesis in Religious Studies, SOAS, London, 30 April 2009.

“The relationship between Shiism and Sufism is one of the most unexplored areas of Islamic studies. Its study has traditionally been hindered by the lack of primary sources. This is especially so in the case of Ismailism in the medieval Islamic Era, which is more easily associable to Sufism.

Ismaili associations with early Sufism go back to the Fatimid Era in Egypt of which the Indus Valley was a part. This is in the tenth century when dominant Ismaili and Twelver states ruled the Middle East. After the destruction of these Shia states by the incoming Sunni Turkic dynasties, Ismailism went underground in Iran and its ideas reappeared in the shape of Sufi Orders in Iraq, most prominently the Suhrawardi Order. In this period, Ismailism flourished again in the Indus Valley under missionaries sent from neighboring Iran, who freely worked on the metaphysical commonality between Indian and Iranian cultures for their proselytism. Its zenith was reached under the Ismaili missionary Shams in the thirteenth century, who after a long spate of problems in his host country, perfected a system of metaphysical interlacing called the Satpanth, or true path, setting up ceremonies which tied him to the Suhrawardi Sufi Order which preexisted here. This association led to the falling out of the court patronised order with the Imperial Authorities in Delhi. The Satpanth worked through an astrological framework based on the Persian New Year, and the vice-regency of the first Shia Imam Ali, which is the basis of the Shia faith. The astrological resonances of Ali’s succession or vice-regency to Muhammad were known to Muslim scholars in the Iranian Shia-Ismaili tradition before Shams’s time, but are historically first interlaced by Shams with the local calendar for the benefit of his followers. The Satpanth later found its way as astrological symbolism on the monuments of the Suhrawardi Order. In addition, an unorthodox monument archetype which accommodates Satpanth ideals is common to the buildings associated with Shams, his descendants and Suhrawardi Sufis over three centuries. Evidence suggest that Shams may have been responsible this archetype.

A comparison between extant religious ceremony, iconography and the common monument archetype in the latter chapters shows the covert Shia-Ismaili beliefs of the Suhrawardi Order in the Indus Valley. This complements the critical reexamination of historical sources for the purpose in the first half of the thesis.”

Keywords: Shiism, Ismailism, Suhrawardi Sufi Order, Satpanth, Shams, Indus valley, Pakistan

Book: The Nath Yogis in Contemporary India

Véronique Bouillier, 2008, Itinérance et vie monastique. Les ascètes Nath Yogis en Inde contemporaine, Paris, Editions de la MSH, 310 p.

In this book, Véronique Bouillier gives a description of an Indian Saivaite sect, the Nath Yogis. Through the example of this sect, the social anthropologist examines the main features of Hindu asceticism i.e. the interweaving of a tradition of personal spiritual and ascetic quest and a collective organisation. She suggests that this collective organisation which relies on monastic institutions has enabled Hindu asceticism to endure and innovate. This volume, which draws on detailed ethnographic fieldworks as well as various historical sources to portray a vivid sect, is divided into three parts. The first part is a general presentation of the Nath Yogis, the second and the third parts describe the double configuration of the sect through the collective and personal monasteries. The author builds step by step her argument and her rich and detailed book can be read as an in-depth journey within the Nath Yogi world which leads us to Nepal, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Frédérique Pagani

More infos

http://www.editions-msh.fr

 

PhD thesis in 2008

Julie Baujard, Refugee identity, transversal identity. Refugees in Delhi within the institutional, community and associative dynamics. [Identité “réfugié”, identité transversale. Les réfugiés à Delhi au sein des dynamiques institutionnelles, communautaires et associatives.] PhD thesis in Anthropology, University of Provence, Aix-Marseille I, 2008.

“This thesis examines the category of people known as “refugees” and the impact this categorization has on the creation of an identity in the limited framework, Delhi, a space of convergence, and dispersion. The category of refugees includes people of different ethnic groups, religions, and nationalities. I attempt to determine whether their image of themselves and the types of action they engage in are common to them all, which would indicate that their identity is based on their situation as  refugees. The category of refugee is broken down into: the regulatory bodies that give substance to the refugee “label”; the people who support refugees politically and socially; and religious groups (Christian groups) who are also key players in the “refugee system”. A transversal approach leads to the conclusion that as civil society emerges, carrying with it expression of a heterogeneous identity along with community dynamic, one can define the refugee identity.”

Delphine Ortis, Ethnography of an Indian Islam. Religious and Social Organization of a Muslim Institution: The Dargâh of the Martyr Ghâzî Miyân (Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, North India). [Ethnographie d’un islam indien. Organisation culturelle et sociale d’une institution musulmane: la dargâh du martyr Ghâzî Miyân (Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, Inde du Nord).] PhD thesis in Anthropology, CEIAS-EHESS, Paris, 2008.

“This thesis deals with a dargâh, the most representative institution of Islam on the Indian subcontinent. The study of the dargâh of the martyr Ghâzî Miyân in Bahraich (Uttar Pradesh) raises issues concerning the role of Islamic values in local Hindu society. These have been studied from three different perspectives: organization of worship, social organization, and the martyr’s acts. Both daily and festive worship, analysed on the basis of notions of time and space, reveals the distinctive roles played by Muslim and Hindu inhabitants of a territory defined by the worship of Ghâzî Miyân. He appears to be a kind of local power who reacts in function of human events. The social organisation of the sanctuary as an institution, comparable to the ancient landownership system, is based on relations of service and the sharing of wealth between several beneficiaries. The hagiography of the martyr describing him as a Jihad conqueror seems at first sight to be in contradiction with his veneration. His story is interwoven with hagiography, local legends and ballads and reveals itself to be a reconfiguration based on a universe of shared Islamic and Hindu values of the classic young warrior hero who dies a martyr’s death.”

Anna Poujeau, Churches, Monasticism and Holiness. Construction of the Christian Community in Syria. [Églises, Monachisme et Sainteté. Construction de la communauté chrétienne en Syrie.] PhD thesis in Anthropology, Paris X-Nanterre, 2008.

“This thesis focuses on the social, political and symbolic inscriptions of the Christian minority in the Syrian national territory, more specifically, on the monastic revival which has been taking place in this country over the last three decades. It is indeed a revival, in spite of its late manifestation, as this contemporary process, including its local representations, falls within the scope of a history which goes back to the origins of Christianity. What then are the motives of this phenomenon? How and why did monasticism reappear in Syria today? How must this “return of the monks”, who had been saintly considered during the first centuries of Christianity, be interpreted? What kind of relation may be established between monasticism and holiness? This thesis attempts to answer these broad questions which place it, at the same time, in the field of the anthropology of Christianity and that of the study of monasticism. They refer to the contemporary modalities of construction of the Christian community of Syria, where its three dimensions, the Churches, monasticism and holiness are closely related and seem to structure its universe. Christian monasticism in Syria is analysed through its historical, symbolic, religious, social, economic and political dimensions.”

Audrey Peli, Coins, Metal and Power: Mints and Minting Techniques in Yemen (2th- 6th/8th-12th centuries). [Monnaies, métal et pouvoir. Frappes et techniques monétaires au Yémen (IIe-VIe/VIIIe-XIIe siècles).] PhD thesis in Archaeology, University of Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne, 2008.

“The study of Yemeni coins, from the foundation in Ṣanâ’ of the first mint during Hârûn al-Rashîd’s reign (170-193/786-809) until the conquest of the Yemen by Tûrânshâh in 569/1173, explores History, Economy and metallurgical techniques. Comparing textual and numismatic sources allows one to fix the dates of historical events, to establish dynastic lists, to identify local troubles and, through titles, political allegiance between Yemeni rulers and the sovereigns of the Islamic world. Chronicles, geographical works, archives and hoards testify to the circulation and to the monetary uses in the Yemen where currencies were minted with different weights. They show the place of the Yemen in international trade between India and Egypt and shed light on the role coins played. Finally, the metallurgical treatise al-Hamdânî wrote in the 4th/10th century allows us to reconstruct the process of refining metal. Coins compared with textual and archaeological data reveal a political and economic history of Yemen during the first centuries of Islam. It shows the evolution of this country, at first neglected and then flourishing at the eve of the Ayyûbid conquest.”

Manan Ahmed, The Many Histories of Muhammad b. Qasim: Narrating the Muslim conquest of Sindh, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, December 2008.

“This study focuses on the history and representation of Muhammad b. Qasim, the commander of the Muslim forces, which conquered the region of Sindh (present day Pakistan) in the eighth century. The history of Muhammad b. Qasim emerged as a central origin myth for the postcolonial state of Pakistan. It formed a piece of the nationalist struggle against the British, and remains a contested historical symbol. To understand the many social and political functions of the history of Muhammad b. Qasim, the study begins with the earliest extant accounts of the conquest and attempt to delineate “what happened” from “what is said to have happened.” It argues for the recasting of these histories outside of nationalist/postcolonial paradigms, in order to situate them as regional histories, produced within the “frontier of Sindh” – a liminal perspective mediating between the global and the local. This perspective allows examining the production of such histories, and the afterlives of the texts, in political and cultural memory, within their historiographical, literary and political contexts across the longue durée.”