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The Graves of Tarim narrates the movement of an old diaspora across the Indian Ocean over the past five hundred years. Ranging from Arabia to India and Southeast Asia, Engseng Ho explores the transcultural exchanges—in kinship and writing—that enabled Hadrami Yemeni descendants of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to become locals in each of the three regions yet remain The Graves of Tarim narrates the movement of an old diaspora across the Indian Ocean over the past five hundred years. Ranging from Arabia to India and Southeast Asia, Engseng Ho explores the transcultural exchanges—in kinship and writing—that enabled Hadrami Yemeni descendants of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to become locals in each of the three regions yet remain cosmopolitans with vital connections across the ocean. At home throughout the Indian Ocean, diasporic Hadramis engaged European empires in surprising ways across its breadth, beyond the usual territorial confines of colonizer and colonized. A work of both anthropology and history, this book brilliantly demonstrates how the emerging fields of world history and transcultural studies are coming together to provide groundbreaking ways of studying religion, diaspora, and empire. Ho interprets biographies, family histories, chronicles, pilgrimage manuals and religious law as the unified literary output of a diaspora that hybridizes both texts and persons within a genealogy of Prophetic descent. By using anthropological concepts to read Islamic texts in Arabic and Malay, he demonstrates the existence of a hitherto unidentified canon of diasporic literature. His supple conceptual framework and innovative use of documentary and field evidence are elegantly combined to present a vision of this vital world region beyond the histories of trade and European empire.


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The Graves of Tarim narrates the movement of an old diaspora across the Indian Ocean over the past five hundred years. Ranging from Arabia to India and Southeast Asia, Engseng Ho explores the transcultural exchanges—in kinship and writing—that enabled Hadrami Yemeni descendants of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to become locals in each of the three regions yet remain The Graves of Tarim narrates the movement of an old diaspora across the Indian Ocean over the past five hundred years. Ranging from Arabia to India and Southeast Asia, Engseng Ho explores the transcultural exchanges—in kinship and writing—that enabled Hadrami Yemeni descendants of the Muslim prophet Muhammad to become locals in each of the three regions yet remain cosmopolitans with vital connections across the ocean. At home throughout the Indian Ocean, diasporic Hadramis engaged European empires in surprising ways across its breadth, beyond the usual territorial confines of colonizer and colonized. A work of both anthropology and history, this book brilliantly demonstrates how the emerging fields of world history and transcultural studies are coming together to provide groundbreaking ways of studying religion, diaspora, and empire. Ho interprets biographies, family histories, chronicles, pilgrimage manuals and religious law as the unified literary output of a diaspora that hybridizes both texts and persons within a genealogy of Prophetic descent. By using anthropological concepts to read Islamic texts in Arabic and Malay, he demonstrates the existence of a hitherto unidentified canon of diasporic literature. His supple conceptual framework and innovative use of documentary and field evidence are elegantly combined to present a vision of this vital world region beyond the histories of trade and European empire.

30 review for The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean

  1. 4 out of 5

    Waseem Naser

    Amazing book! Ho's genius in this book is on its structure, through which he gives an extremely lucid and engaging narrative to an ostensibly dry Hadrami life. He could thus invoke the fundamental tensions between their notion of death and the infatuations of modern nation-states with birth; the tensions of being part of a nation or part of a diaspora. This then is connected to their particular notion of genealogy and the resulting hierarchies that play out in the social and political sphere. Ho Amazing book! Ho's genius in this book is on its structure, through which he gives an extremely lucid and engaging narrative to an ostensibly dry Hadrami life. He could thus invoke the fundamental tensions between their notion of death and the infatuations of modern nation-states with birth; the tensions of being part of a nation or part of a diaspora. This then is connected to their particular notion of genealogy and the resulting hierarchies that play out in the social and political sphere. Ho seamlessly manages to bring up these complex issues and contentions of modern life and navigates through them much like the Hadrami seafarers that stand out in the book- calm and composed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    "A society of the absent" You can't get through some books because they are boring. You can't get through others because they are so poorly written. But then, there are a few that take a long time to get through because they are so full of ideas and new currents that constantly join a dense, learned discussion. This is one of the latter. I'm not going to tell you that it's an easy trot through the anthropology and history of Hadramawt and its diaspora. No, if you can't sail through "key site of "A society of the absent" You can't get through some books because they are boring. You can't get through others because they are so poorly written. But then, there are a few that take a long time to get through because they are so full of ideas and new currents that constantly join a dense, learned discussion. This is one of the latter. I'm not going to tell you that it's an easy trot through the anthropology and history of Hadramawt and its diaspora. No, if you can't sail through "key site of articulation", "ready apparatus of signs", "two distinct realms of textual circulation", or "dynamics of signification"---plus a lot more---your ship is going to sink. The writing is poetic and lyrical at times, but often hard to pin down. Discussions of geneological texts from a remote Yemeni region are not everybody's cup of tea. So, let's just say that this is a book for scholars, a book that will impress you for sure if you stay the course. Devout Muslims from the remote region of Hadramawt---today in eastern Yemen---began emigrating abroad some five hundred years ago. At first they served as teachers, judges, religious officials, or holy men, settling in India, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. They maintained ties with their distant homeland, often returning to die there. Their remittances or savings bought date orchards in wadis of Hadramawt, their tombs became places of pilgrimage for their descendants and others. Graves of ancestors and holy men turned into pilgrimage sites, beloved of many, condemned as not Islamic enough by others. As European colonial empires grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, Hadrami Arabs linked up with them economically, becoming ever more prosperous merchants and businessmen. They blended into the societies where their diaspora had settled, but maintained contact over many generations with Hadramawt. As the wider Arab world awoke and currents of pan-Arabism, Islamic revival and nationalism began to run, some segments of the Hadrami community became involved. Geneology played a continuous role in their links to one another, to the rising native elites in such places as Indonesia, Malaysia and Zanzibar through intermarriage. The creoles (Hadrami fathers, local mothers) played important parts in the adoptive societies. Hadramawt's remoteness (and lack of obvious resources) meant that it was not colonized until the late 1930s. It was the last place to fall under European colonial rule. The British ruled it with bombs and bribes, trying to maintain order via treaties with a myriad small rulers. By that time, some 20-30% of the population lived abroad. When the British left, Hadramawt, now absorbed into the Marxist People's Republic of South Yemen, entered at last into the 20th century world of nation states, where everybody had to be a citizen of one or another entity, but not more than one. The creoles faced difficult dilemmas. The new rulers tried to break the bonds of Islam and family built over many centuries. When the two Yemens joined, Marxism got the thumbs down, and the sayyid-tribal complex--bound by Islam--re-emerged. That's the story in a nutshell. From Malaysia himself, Ho probably came to this subject with unique advantages. It is neither a work totally about Yemen nor a work about the diaspora in Southeast Asia, India, etc. It is a work full of questions about emigration, travel, opportunity, eviction, return, family, religion and graves. For the details, and to know how the author answered many questions, I think you'll have to read this complex, fascinating, and sometimes extremely difficult book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Menelik

    Very detailed narration of the history of the hadhramis and their descendants around the world. This book is very personal because it is the story of my origins and I learnt a lot about my genealogy and the history of my ancestors as well as the history of the city of Tarim. From Singapore to Mogadisho, from Saudi Arabia to East Timor, Mozambique to Tunisia, it is the story of one people who have defined their throne in history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike Mena

    This rating is directly tied to my reading comprehension level. This is a thick book. Pretentious vocabulary. Will be inaccessible to many readers. Author does present a new view is diaspora which is allegedly revolutionary. Perhaps other will have better luck with this book than I did.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Radiah

  6. 5 out of 5

    Badar Al-faqeer

  7. 5 out of 5

    PMP

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daeng Lalang

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  11. 5 out of 5

    Achmad Dahlan

  12. 4 out of 5

    vivian

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Minh-Chau Le

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex Shams

  15. 5 out of 5

    Boquq

  16. 5 out of 5

    Abdulkadir Jailani

  17. 4 out of 5

    g

  18. 4 out of 5

    Henry

  19. 5 out of 5

    AM

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucía Cortés

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kavana

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

  23. 5 out of 5

    Yoav

  24. 5 out of 5

    Iman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Helene Ryding

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danny Geary

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Campbell

  30. 5 out of 5

    Evie

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