Reviving traditions and creating futures

William Noseworthy

Katé is one of the largest festivals and religious gatherings of the Cham people of Southeast Asia. It is the largest Cham festival in Vietnam, where the Chams have their ancestral homeland. It is perhaps due to its popularity that there are two dominant misconceptions regarding Katé. The first is that Katé is the ‘Cham New Year’. The second is that the festival is limited to the Cham ‘Brahmanist’ population, known as the Cam Ahier (or simply Cam). Continue reading

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

William B. Noseworthy

10367813_561656520782_4030845662262032609_nIn 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 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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William Noseworthy (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

From 1627 to 1651, a member of the highland Austronesian Churu peoples, Po Romé, ruled over the lowland Austronesian Champeoples’ kingdom of Panduranga (now Khánh Hòa, Bình Thuan, and Ninh Thuan provinces in Viet Nam). Po Romé has been referred to asthe ‘Charlemagne’ of Cham studies (Bruckmayr, 2013), indicative ofhis importance in larger understandings of the Cham and their role inSoutheast Asian history. The Cham have generally been understoodas a lowland people who brought highland peoples into their culturalsphere through conquest and trade. Scott (2009) has recentlycritiqued such simplistic presentations of the ‘civilizing’ of thehighlands, and argued for a more nuanced understanding of highlandidentity. However, one conspicuous absence in Scott’s portrayal is anexamination of highland-lowland relations through the biographiesof figures such as Po Romé. I argue that an examination of Po Romé’s life and its ethnographic and historiographic contexts deepens our understanding of upland peoples and Cham history.

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Mamun and the ‘Kaum Imam San’ of Cambodia

William Noseworthy

downloadDiscourse on syncretic Islam could, according to recent scholarship, explain the practices of a Cham community known as the ‘Kaum Imam San’ by some and the ‘Bani of Cambodia’ by others. This community, numbering about 50,000 today, has gained great attention; perhaps due to the following reasons. First, the community has attracted scholarly interest through the newfound efforts backed by the American embassy to increase basic literacy in the endangered Cham script. Second, the community has attracted the attentions of the purification efforts of Salafi- or Tablighi-influenced elements of Cambodia’s Islamic community. Finally, it is likely that the Kaum Imam San have also attracted a potentially disproportionate amount of scholarly attention (per population) as a result of their vibrant religious traditions, which mix elements of Islamic, Khmer and ancestral worshipping practices with the unique historical memory of the saint named Kaum Imam San, in order to produce a truly lively experience.

See the full paper here: Cam Cambodia