and Untold Tales from the Malay World
Ian Proudfoot, one of the greatest scholars of the Islamic world of Southeast Asia and especially of early Muslim printing, passed away on 23 September 2011. The following is the introduction to the book 'Lost Times and Untold Tales From The Malay World' which pays tribute to his work.
* * * * * * * *
"maka kujadikan diriku pungutib sagala
remah remah dcripada sagala taman orang orang yang bijaksana, umpama, sa'ekor lubah
yang munghimpunkan mudu dcripada berbagei bagei junis bunga
bungaan yang harum bahunya"
Few scholars can match Ian Proudfoot's inspiring work in this scholarly garden, where, for the past three decades, he has cultivated with love and care the flowers and shoots of Malay World epistemology. Honouring the spirit of Proudfoot's scholarship, Lost Times and Untold Tales from the Malay World comprises original and provocative essays that reveal how analyses of offbeat texts can produce fascinating insights into the past. In one absorbing volume, a multi-disciplinary cohort of international academics presents intriguing, amusing and thought-provoking perspectives on calendars, royal myths, colonial expeditions, printing, propaganda, rituals, theatre, art, advertising, Islamic manuscripts, gardens and erotic literature. Linked by themes of transformations in time, texts and technologies, the essays apply the approaches of history, anthropology, art history, archaeology, linguistics, philology, literary criticism, and textual analysis to a marvellous array of cultural expressions from the Malay World, a huge geographical area spanning Peninsular and Insular Southeast Asia, with excursions into West, South, and East Asia as well as the "West". In this volume, mousedeers and beached whales, giant lizards, gaseous windbags and marginal Islamic scholars, Christian priests and Japanese aristocrats all roam around freely — a forceful demonstration of the futility of essentialising the cultural, literary and historical riches of the Malay World.
with texts, technologies and time to a large extent has shaped his
academic life, forging his worldwide reputation as an acknowledged expert in
the Malay classical literature canon, philology, codicology, early printing
and newspapers. His research interests branched out to include
literacy, printing and colonial education in nineteenth-century Muslim
Southeast Asia, ideologies and genres in classical Malay manuscript
literature, and the history of Southeast Asian Muslim calendars,
and Indian calendars in Java.
Transformations in textual genres, different types of texts, their performance contexts and their cultural embeddedness, understandings of what a text is, as well as identifying key figures in and behind texts are central themes in Proudfoot's work and are themes reprised in the next series of papers in this volume. Mary Kilcline Cody discusses the advertised "testimonials" of a number of ailing colonials who claimed to have been cured by the universal remedy of Dr William• Pink Pills for Pale People. She traces these advertisements or pieces of infotainment back to Dr Williams himself while also looking into medical discussions about the remarkable range of ailments experienced by Europeans in Malaya. Paul Kratoska turns his attention to the cloak and dagger world of Allied propaganda in Sumatra and Malaya towards the end of World War II. His analyses of radio broadcast scripts, pamphlets, postcards and matchboxes offer intriguing insights into Allied understandings of' the Malay world. Jan van der Putten considers another type of text issued by colonial law enforcement agencies to physically hunt down fugitives. Wanted posters were used to try to capture suspects but also had the unwanted side-effect of causing a rise in corruption and boosting the suspect's reputation. This may be one of the reasons why the genre seems to have had little success in Southeast Asia, especially if it concerned a "political" fugitive.
The search for Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, in a wide array of texts in several languages of Insular Southeast Asia organised by Wendy Mukherjee yields a fascinating result about the "mundane" and "cultic" representations of this revered and prominent member of the House of Muhammad (Ahl al-Bait). Michael Laffan provides a thought-provoking philological exploration into the contextual nature of the term "Jawi" as the Arabic appellation of place of origin (nisba), which ends in the identification of one of the four key players in a religious controversy taking place at the Acehnese court in the seventeenth century. Another of these key players, Shams al-Din, is discussed by A. H. Johns, who calls for a reappraisal of his scholarship, while Mark Emmanuel tries to draw Muhammad Yusuf, a key figure behind Maialah Guru, out of the shadow cast by his older brother Zainal Abidin, better known as Za'ba. Unveiling hitherto unknown or overlooked figures and their works is also the main theme in the two following contributions in which Anthony Reid traces the printing activities of the Catholic Priest, Fr. Pecot in early nineteenth-century Penang, while Edwin Wieringa sheds light on a marginally printed work by the prolific and well-known Islamic scholar and supervisor of the Malay press in Mecca, Ahmad al-Fatani.
Transformations in social and performative contexts are
key themes in
the next series of papers. Julian Millie's social history of the karamat ritual in West Java traces
its evolution and explores how the karamat reading tradition holds
authority in different social contexts. Helen Creese examines the
reasons for the continuing popularity of oral performances in
what should be the print-literate society of Bali and transformation is also a
key notion in Holger Warnk's essay, where he follows the peregrination
of Faust as represented in different genres of Southeast Asian
performance. While Muhammad Haji Salleh looks for love and its
representation in older Malay texts, Christine Campbell has found it in the
early-twentieth century novel Hikayat Faridah Hanom by Syed Sheikh al-Nadi.
Muhammad argues that while unveiled descriptions of romantic
relationships are rare, there are still many literary examples that
feature love, and he discusses the different stages of the
affair as discernible in one text. Christine analyses the early Malay novel from the unconventional
perspective of erotic tension that is caused by the delay of sexual union
between the two lovers. She notes a special role for objects of modernity
such as letters, carriages and a pistol, which tend to lead a life of
their own in the erotic plot of this novel that is most often analysed from
Islamic reformist and feminist perspectives.
social and political significance of certain artefacts of modernity form the core of the essay by Kees van
Dijk. The introduction of the bicycle had far-reaching consequences
for the emancipation of women, for workers, as well as for the
indigenous population of the colonies. Inevitably, the introduction of
modern technologies also caused tensions, including the danger of accidents
caused by bicycles, tram ways and, of course, cars. Nico Kaptein takes up
this transport theme in his perusal of the letters of Sayyid 'Uthman and
offers insights into aspects of modernity, particularly of the danger
of the proliferation of cars in colonial Batavia.
A teacher and mentor, Ian Proudfoot has trained and inspired many active scholars in Australia, the United States, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Britain. His intellectual brilliance, unfailing courtesy, great humanity, and generosity to colleagues and students in his over 30 years at the Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University are legendary. Although his interests sometimes may at first glance appear quirky and offbeat, he brings to bear great expertise, thoroughness and that rare ability to make material speak volumes about culture and society. The Malay Garden of Knowledge is indeed ably tended by the range and depth of this quiet scholar's interests and his perceptive uncovering of its lost times and untold tales represents a remarkable and enduring legacy.
From 'Lost Times and Untold Tales from the
Malay World' by Jan van der Putten, Mary Kilcline Cody, NUS Press,
2009. A preview of the book is available at Google Books
For more information on Ian Proudfoot,
please visit http://mcp.anu.edu.au/proudfoot/