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Studies on Islam and Society in Southeast Asia

WILLIAM R. ROFF is Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, New York and an Honorary Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

NUS Press (First printing, 2009)
372 pages including Index


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Studies on Islam and Society in Southeast Asia provides a valuable window into the prolific scholarly output by William Roff during his long (and continuing) academic career. William R. Roff has spent more than forty years studying and writing about the modern history of Islam and Muslims, with special reference to Southeast Asia. With interests primarily in social and intellectual history he has contributed essays during this period to a wide range of learned journals and other publications.

The present collection reprints a selection of the most notable of these, from historiographical and methodological studies to the development of Islamic educational and other institutions, the nature of the Arab presence in Southeast Asia, and the social significance of the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. The author has been a formative influence on two generations of students and other scholars, and this reissue in accessible form of seminal but scattered essays will be widely welcomed.

Readers are urged to take the time to read the Introduction, which provides the author’s overview of his own career and his evolving scholarly context. It reveals how he was almost lost to Malay Studies because of his early interest in Burma and Buddhism. Roff unpacks for the reader the changing preoccupations and trends in the study of Islam in Southeast Asia and, as such, this short introduction is itself a valuable resource for young students of Southeast Asian studies.

Roff’s career has been characterised by both longevity and breadth. He has spent over forty years of his life researching the modern history of Islam and Muslims, with particular reference to Southeast Asia and its social and intellectual history. The fifteen essays contained in this present volume were originally published between 1964 and 2009. They cover wide-ranging themes, though the connections across the themes are clear and provide a powerful coherence to the volume.

Studies on Islam and Society in Southeast Asia is divided into five parts, with each part presenting three essays. Part I offers essays written in 1985, 1987 and 2007, addressing interpretative issues in historiography and methodology. They span a significant part of Roff’s career, indicating his concern with core methodological issues down the years. They also take account of both Southeast Asian and broader Muslim world contexts, demonstrating Roff’s wide-ranging knowledge base


Part I – Historiography and Methodology

1. Islam Obscured? Some Reflections on Studies of Islam and Society in Southeast Asia
2. Onomastics, and Taxonomies of Belonging in the Malay Muslim World
3. Islamic Movements: One or Many?

Part II – Malaya and Singapore

4. The Malayo-Muslim World of Singapore at the Close of the Nineteenth Century
5. Patterns of Islamization in Malaysia, 1890s—1990s: Exemplars, Institutions and Vectors
6. Pondoks, Madrasabs and the Production of ‘Ulama’ in Malaysia

Part III – Arab World Connections

7. Indonesian and Malay Students in Cairo in the 1920s
8. Murder as an Aid to Social History: The Arab Community in Singapore in the Early Twentieth Century
9. The Ins and Outs of Hadhrami Journalism in Malaya, 1900-1941: Assimilation or Identity Maintenance?

Part IV – Kelantan

10. The Origin and Early Years of the Majlis Agama Kelantan
11. The Mystery of the First Malay Novel (and Who Was Rokambul?)
12. Whence Cometh the Law? Dog Saliva in Kelantan, 1937

Part V – The Meccan Pilgrimage

13. Sociological Interpretations of Religious Practice: The Case of the Hajj
14. Sanitation and Security: The Imperial Powers and the Hajj in the Nineteenth Century
15. The Conduct of the Hajj from Malaya, and the First Malay Pilgrimage Officer


Weight0.680 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.3 × 1.2 cm





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