Lecture: The ‘Magic’ of Modern Malaya: Remembering Histories of Adam’s Ore and Muhammad’s Guns
This talk explores Malay manuscripts pertaining to Muslim miracle-workers, or ‘magicians’ who were key intermediaries of ore and guns in the interior of modern Malaya. These manuscripts are analysed to recount a history of worlds and environments wherein socioeconomic activities were associated with Islamic esoteric science. I introduce here, professional miracle-workers who were venerated as heirs of prophets and saints from earlier Islamic periods. Having inherited ‘noses’ for prospecting ore, and as direct ‘technological’ heirs of the Prophet’s guns, these miracle-workers were esteemed for their rituals and miracles in contemporary forests, mines, ‘workshops’ and stockades. This talk analyses elaborate Islamic genealogies and popular historical traditions, and investigates how ‘magical’ manuscripts are prime sources of socioeconomic histories and are informative about religio-economic sensibilities. This talk further presents my explorations into the cosmopolitanism of the Malay frontier.