Articulations of Southeast Asian Religious Modernisms: Islam in Early 20th Century Cambodia & Cochinchina

William B. Noseworthy

[ Abstract ]

This article is about the emergence of Islamic modernism among Cham Muslim communities in Cambodia and Cochinchina during the early 20th century. Based on a combined critical reading of existing scholarship, historicized first-hand anthropological accounts, as well as archival sources from the National Archives of Cambodia and the Vietnam National Archives II, it argues accounts of modernists in these sources were either (1) cast through a French colonial reading of a Buddhist state lens and (2) cast through a Malay lens, based upon the Kaum Muda/Kaum Tua divide. First, it proceeds with a historical explanation of the emergence of Islam and the discourse used to describe Muslim communities in Vietnamese, French, and Cham language sources. Then, it turns the narrative toward an examination of the emergence of the “Kaum Muda” or “New Group” of reformist-minded modernist Muslims in early 20th century Cambodia. Delineating the networks of these intellectuals as they stretched across the border through Cochinchina, also highlights a pre-existing transnational element to the community, one that well predates current discussions of twenty-first-century transnationalism. Through a combination of the study of multiple language sources and historical methods, the article highlights the importance of polylingualism in the study of the history of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

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Cambodian Cham Identities in a Global Age

IconeK7_DSC0077-550x300William B. Noseworthy

The Cambodian Genocide: most scholars have heard of it. It is a critical case in ongoing studies of Genocide Studies, International Law as well as Memory and Social Trauma that many teachers will have to address. From forensic anthropologists to criminal investigators, journalists to historiansand even experts in literature—the case of a series of mass killings that emerged out of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 under the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) regime, most frequently referred to as the “Khmer Rouge”(Kh.: Khmer Kraham), will be an important study for college students and scholars for generations to come. The genocidal policies enacted against the Cham Muslim minority during this period are increasingly well known. In this context, the decade of work by Kok-Thay Eng as Director of Research at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM) is enough to produce several dissertations. In fact, one of the individuals who contributed much of the work to Kok-Thay Eng’s dissertationFrom the Khmer Rouge to Hambali: Cham Identities in a Global Age, Farina So, is now working on her own dissertation based in Lowell, MA. Several other individual researchers, working with DC-CAM critically contributed to this work. The sheer number of interviews conducted by the DC-CAM research center, as well as the number that are cited in this dissertation alone, is impressive. Finally, the lucid presentation of the dissertation’s argument is testament to the author’s success in tackling, by his own admission, his own greatest challenge: writing in a second language. Continue reading

The Mother Goddess of Champa: Po Inâ Nâgar

William B Noseworthy

[ Abstract ]

po inaThis article utilizes interdisciplinary methods in order to critically review the existing research on the Mother Goddess of Champa: Po Inâ Nâgar. In the past, Po Inâ Nâgar has too often been portrayed as simply a “local adaptation of Uma, the wife of Śiva, who was abandoned by the Cham adapted by the Vietnamese in conjunction with their conquest of Champa.” This reading of the Po Ina Nagar narrative can be derived from even the best scholarly works on the subject of the goddess, as well as a grand majority of the works produced during the period of French colonial scholarship. In this article, I argue that the adaption of the literary studies strategies of “close reading”, “surface reading as materiality”, and the “hermeneutics of suspicion”, applied to Cham manuscripts and epigraphic evidence—in addition to mixed anthropological and historical methods—demonstrates that Po Inâ Nâgar is, rather, a Champa (or ‘Cham’) mother goddess, who has become known by many names, even as the Cham continue to re-assert that she is an indigenous Cham goddess in the context of a majority culture of Thánh Mẫu worship.

Keywords: Hinduism, Localization, Goddess worship, Champa civilization, Vietnam, Cham

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Lowland Participation in the Irredentist ‘Highlands Liberation Movement’ in Vietnam, 1955-1975

William B. Noseworthy

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In the field of mainland South-East Asian history, particular attention has been granted to highlandlowland relations following the central argument James Scott presented in The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland South-East Asia. Scott’s analytical perspective echoes a long-term trend of scholarly examinations in the region. In a similar fashion, historical examinations of the Vietnam War period view the so-called ‘highlands liberation movement’ or the Unifi ed Front for the Struggle of the Oppressed Races (FULRO) through the lens of a highland-lowland dichotomy. However, based on an examination of the biography of the Cham Muslim leader Les Kosem and various FULRO documents, this article challenges dominant assumptions based on Scott’s argument and argues that a focus on minority-majority relations is essential for understanding the origins of irredentist claims of indigenous peoples in the region.

Keywords: FULRO; Highland-Lowland Relations; Irredentism; Mainland South-East Asia; Vietnam War

Read the full paper here: http://www.seas.at/aseas/6_1/ASEAS_6_1_A2.pdf