Islam, Bodies, Sexuality: Islam and Islamic Bodies in South and Southeast Asia




This course introduces students to scholarship on Islam in Southeast Asia. It focuses on the literature on Islamic bodies and sexuality in Southeast Asia, paying particular attention to how Islamic adepts associated the health, growth and regeneration of religion with the cultivation of bodies and sexual practices. Students will be introduced to the academic literature on religious sexuality in Southeast Asia and the broader Islamic and Persianate world, before being introduced to manuals, mantras, travelogues, autobiographies, novels, pamphlets and films produced in Southeast Asia between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries. This course is divided into four main parts. Part I of this course will focus on thinking about religion, bodies and sex and the genealogies of Islam and Islamic bodies in Southeast Asia. It will also consider the 'Sufi' and 'Salafi' articulations of Southeast Asian Islam and Islamic sexuality. Part II will shift its attention toward Islamic societies of the Malay world, to trace a history of the relics, blood and bodily fluids of missionaries and saints in early modern and modern Southeast Asia. The dramatis personae of Part II include cosmopolitan heirs of Prophet Muhammad and Jesuits mediating Islamic frontiers and Islamic bodies and spirits, as well as the primary agents of Southeast Asian Islam who were portrayed by 'orientalists' as Muslim shamans and Tantrics. Part III of the course will focus on martial arts, body-building, soldiering, yoga and traditions of abstinence, breathing, piercing, bleeding and doctoring, while tracing connections between Islamic, Hindu and Sikh bodily techniques across the Bay of Bengal. Part IV of the course concentrates on the cultivation of masculinity and challenge of alternative masculinities in Islamic modernity, and the category of the 'eunuch' and accompanying sacred boundaries. Part IV then devotes attention to the voluminous textual traditions (of Islamic scholars) on the modern Muslim's body and sexuality. This course concludes by engaging the sociopolitical representations of the 'Muslim' body, and its connection to (or disjunction from) nationalism, secularism, caste, hypersexuality and, unsurprisingly, COVID-19.


Additional Information

Faculty: Teren Sevea
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Thurs, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET
HDS 3173