Thursday, August 20, 2020

Yahaya on colonial law and Arabs in Southeast Asia

Out soon by Nurfadzilah Yahaya (National University of Singapore) is Fluid Jurisdictions: Colonial Law and Arabs in Southeast Asia, published by Cornell University Press. From the publisher: 
Fluid Jurisdictions
This wide-ranging, geographically ambitious book tells the story of the Arab diaspora within the context of British and Dutch colonialism, unpacking the community's ambiguous embrace of European colonial authority in Southeast Asia. In Fluid Jurisdictions, Nurfadzilah Yahaya looks at colonial legal infrastructure - discussing how it impacted, and was impacted by, Islam and ethnicity.  But more importantly, she follows the actors who used this framework to advance their particular interests.
Yahaya explains why Arab minorities in the region helped to fuel the entrenchment of European colonial legalities: their itinerant lives made institutional records necessary. Securely stored in centralized repositories, such records could be presented as evidence in legal disputes. In order to ensure accountability down the line, Arab merchants valued notarial attestation land deeds, inheritance papers, and marriage certificates by recognized state officials.  Colonial subjects continually played one jurisdiction against another, sometimes preferring that colonial legal authorities administer Islamic law--even against fellow Muslims.  
Fluid Jurisdictions draws on lively material from multiple international archives to demonstrate the interplay between colonial projections of order and their realities, Arab navigation of legally plural systems in Southeast Asia and beyond, and the fraught and deeply human struggles that played themselves out between family, religious, contract, and commercial legal orders.
Praise for the book:

 "Enlivened with telling archival anecdotes and visual materials, Fluid Jurisdictions provides a compellingly textured history of individuals struggling to navigate business and family relations across shifting geographical and cultural boundaries. Nurfadzilah Yahaya writes with witty flare, making this both a seminal work for the field and a true pleasure to read." - Julia Stephens

"Fluid Jurisdictions tells a rich, detailed, and original story about Arabs in Southeast Asia. Weaving together a formidable diversity of archival material, it makes a significant contribution to world history, the study of law and imperialism, Southeast Asian and diaspora studies." -Iza Hussin

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi