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Miracles and Material Life: A Community Book Read by Teren Sevea
April 18, 2023, 7:00-8:30pm ET, hosted by GETSEA
Open to current graduate students at GETSEA institutions, click here to register.
A community book read with Teren Sevea, author of Miracles and Material Life: Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya and winner of the 2022 Benda Prize.
Sevea’s book Miracles and Material Life is a remarkable scholarly achievement that breathes new life into the intractable themes of cultural hybridity and religious syncretism in Southeast Asian studies. This extraordinary book combines ethnography, oral histories, archival research, pilgrimage, and translations to depict the cosmopolitan imaginations of pawangs and bomohs in colonial Malaya—the miracle workers who operated simultaneously as powerful, resourceful, and problematic actors in the development of colonial capitalism. Miracles and Material Life is a highly original approach to the study of vernacular Islam and colonial statecraft and their zones of overlap and interaction. Its turn to colonial historiography revivifies colonial texts by analyzing the contradictory scenes and terms of their production, acknowledging the multilayered collaborations between scribes, pawangs, courts, and fastidious colonial officers. Tracing the vital economic role of pawangs in colonial Malaya, Sevea shows how indigenous knowledge and spiritual prowess were foundational to the colonial state project of territorial expansion, resource extraction, and cultural control.