Challenging the geographical narrative of the history of Islam, Chiara Formichi
’s new book Islam and Asia: A History
(Cambridge University Press, 2020), helps us to rethink how we tell the story of Islam and the lived expressions of Muslims without privileging certain linguistic, cultural, and geographic realities. Focusing on themes of reform, political Islamism, Sufism, gender, as well as a rich array of material culture (such as sacred spaces and art), the book maps the development of Islam in Asia, such as in Kashmir, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China. It considers both transnational and transregional ebbs and flows that have defined the expansion and institutionalization of Islam in Asia, while attending to factors such as ethnicity, linguistic identity and even food cultures as important realities that have informed the translation of Islam into new regions. It is the “convergence and conversation” between the “local” and “foreign” or better yet between the theoretical notions of “centre” and “periphery” of Islam and Muslim societies that are dismantled in the book, defying any notions of Asian expressions of Islam as a “derivative reality.” The book is accessibly written and will be extremely useful in any undergraduate or graduate courses on Islam, Islam in Asia, or political Islam. The book will also be of interest to those who work on Islamic Studies and Asia Studies.
Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier