November 2022

6 PM

Online Via Zoom


Fables from the Ocean: Locusts, Goliath, and Resilient Miracles in the Age of Long Disorder (C.1500-1900)

Indian Ocean and Beyond: Outward Bound from Gujarat

P K Yasser Arafath

Medieval and Early Modern India

This lecture examines how colonial intrusion, which began at the beginning of the 16th century, led to the dissemination of what can be referred to as "resilient fables" in the Indian Ocean regions. The early modern scholars in Indian Ocean port towns, who were a part of an ever-evolving transnational knowledge network, transposed these fables into their writings for local consumption. Most of these fables were collected from various Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars from Malabar turned these fables into an important method to teach their port town audience, which was made up of Africans, South East Asians, Europeans, Marathas, and Gujaratis, apart from the Mappilas. Thus, these fables played a crucial role in the creation of a persistent network of resistance against colonial intrusion, which resulted in a longue durée disorder across the Indian Ocean region. By the turn of the 20th century, these fables were being sung, performed, and printed across the Malabar region and became part of the Mappila-everyday.

This talk explores the dissemination of such resilient fables that travelled from various regions of Africa and Asia to Kerala and helped colonial Malabar develop an anti-colonial consciousness.


P K Yasser Arafath

P K Yasser Arafath is a historian of medieval and early modern India. His research papers and essays are published in edited volumes and peer reviewed journals that include Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Economic and Political Weekly, Social Scientist, and The Medieval History Journal. Routledge has published his first book (co-edited with Haris Qadeer, London:2021), titled Sultana’s Sisters: Gender, Genres, and Histories in South Asian Muslim Women’s Fiction. Currently, he is in the process of completing a monograph on Indian Ocean texts, titled Malabarnama: Intimate Texts, Ulema, and the Lyrical Resistance in the Age of Disorder (1500-1900). 

Yasser Arafath was at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, as the Dr. L.M. Singhvi Visiting Fellow in 2017. He received several research fellowships, including those awarded by the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).