This course introduces students to the religious worlds of the South Asian diaspora in Malaysia and Singapore, centered upon Hindu, Muslim and Sikh temples and shrines. The course aims to deepen students’ understanding about historical and contemporary South Asian religious worlds in port cities such as Singapore, Melaka and Penang through introducing them to the academic literature on South Asian Sufis, gods, temples and shrines in these cities, and alternatively, through visits to shrines and temples in Malaysia and Singapore. These visits will equip students with a deeper understanding of the religious practices, traditions and rituals of the historical and contemporary South Asian diaspora.
Travel to Singapore and Malaysia March 2 - 11, 2018
During the travel component of the course, students will be familiarized with the temples and shrines of Melaka, Penang and Singapore, most of which can be traced to the settlement of South Asians from Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in the 19th century. The trip will commence in Singapore wherein students will spend 4 days. Thereon, they will proceed to Malaysia for 5 days (2 days in Melaka, 1 day in Kuala Lumpur and 2 days in Penang). Throughout this period, students will be introduced to, on the one hand, temples devoted to Saiva gods and shrines dedicated to saints who undertook voluntary or involuntary journeys to Southeast Asian cities. On the other hand, the active religious worlds of South Asian devotional cults in Southeast Asia, and a variety of religious traditions, festivals, performances and rituals from Sufi musical sessions to Saiva ecstatic trances. Throughout this period, students will be strongly encouraged to consider ways in which a study of the religious worlds of the South Asian diaspora can benefit from an intense engagement with the ‘lived’ practices of Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism in the shrines and temples of Singapore, Melaka and Penang and Bangkok. Moreover, students will be strongly encouraged to consider, in the course of their travels through the Straits of Melaka, how the development of religious institutions and cultures was associated with economic and political developments in the 19th century Malay Peninsula.
A preliminary syllabus can be found here: Sufis and Gods Syllabus.pdf