Mandal, Sumit
Centre for History and Economics, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
Brief bio :
Dr Sumit Mandal is an Associate Professor at the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. He works on transnational and transregional histories with an interest in cultural geographies of the Malay world. He is concerned with the ways in which cultural diversity and notions of insider/outsider are constituted. Mandal views the Malay world in terms of its connectedness to the Indian Ocean. His explorations of Malay texts, Muslim shrines (keramat), and creole Hadramis reveal sites of interaction that are meaningful from the transregional to the local scale. He develops cultural geographies that depart from the familiar ethno-national terms to offer a complex and transregional vocabulary of belonging. His interests extend to contemporary cultural politics where he studies sites of interaction in ethnicised contexts such as Malaysia and Indonesia. He has published recently in the following journals: Indonesia and the Malay World (2013), Modern Asian Studies (2012), Cultural Dynamics (2012) and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2011).
Individual Project :

Keramat and the Malay World

This study of keramat (venerated gravesites) establishes the transnational cultural geography of the Malay world through particular sites of interaction of ideas and practices. The grave is typically of a man who is venerated for outstanding qualities such as extraordinary piety, leadership, generosity, and so forth. The site comes to be recognised as a keramat by signs such as its elongation without any apparent human intervention. Its unusual character is confirmed by the successful supplications of its devotees. The stories of the keramat’s extraordinary qualities endow it with power and allure. The collective examination of a range of these narratives in the form of texts, archived information and images, and interviews, is likely to reveal larger patterns of interaction. Keramat commemorate individuals who were in many instances outsiders, and thereby represent the localisation of transregional persons and politics. The study of the gravesites thus demands attention to a central problematic: the way in which the foreign comes to be incorporated into the local. Rather than offering patterns of formal intellectual and education exchange, the study of keramat sketches a broad field of interaction and demonstrates how different flows of ideas and practices bear on the gravesites.