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International Conference

Lineage and Gender in Islam: Perspectives from the Indian Ocean World

Thursday 16 November 2023 - Friday 17 November 2023
Those who are interested in attending can register by sending an e-mail to m.kooriadathodi@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
B13 and B23

About the Conference

The making and tracing of lineages has been an important feature in Muslim communities since the early phases of Islam. Many early Arab tribes boasted about the superiority of certain lineages and taunted others for their lower or weaker ancestries. ʿIlm al-nasab or the science of genealogy emerged as a scholarly discipline in pre-Islamic Arab world and continues to be a contested tradition among contemporary Muslim communities. Similar aspirations for, and affiliations with, hierarchized lineages became crucial for many Muslims in distant lands. Some communities claimed a lineage tracing back to the Prophet Muhammad or his companions, while others became even more creative, claiming lineages to members of his tribe (Quraysh), pre-Muhammadan prophets such as Noah or Moses, or to local heroes and heroines predating the introduction of Islam. These claims and the related disputes were translated into local forms of social stratification, such as caste groups in South Asia and ethnic identities in Southeast Asia and East Africa, contributing to the creation of socio-economic and religious inequalities, as well as exclusions and inclusions.

At the core of these sociological and historical processes, gender stood as a decisive component in stabilizing or destabilizing the existing social and communal structures. While tracing lineage through the father’s family (patriliny) was the norm for most of these communities, many communities also traced their lineage through the mother’s family (matriliny). Because patriliny (and consequently patriarchy) was considered the norm, matrilineal communities were criticized or ridiculed by neighboring groups for their women-centric practices, such as the succession of properties and titles through female line, residential patterns after marriages, and the prominent role of women in familial and communal matters. The matrilineal groups retaliated not only by highlighting the advantages of their practices but also by using Islam as an effective tool to defend them. They claimed that the early phase of the religion demonstrated the best modus operandi for matrilineal traditions. For example, they pointed out that the Prophet’s lineage is traced through his daughter Fatima, who stands as a clan matriarch for all the Sayyids, and prominent early leaders like Khadija and Aisha held a high stature in the early Muslim commune, regardless of or due to their gender.

Against such contestations among Muslims about lineage, this workshop examines the gendered narrative strategies, truth regimes, and social consequences among Muslims. It explores how and why lineage and genealogy united people across different places and periods, but also divided people within the same place and period. How did marginalized or subaltern groups employ specific lineages to challenge, contest, and ultimately transform established social hierarchies? To what extent was gendered lineage instrumental in shaping social formations and transformations? How did lineage claims highlight or disregard certain nodal points, often based on gender? Why did specific lineages become prominent in Islamic narratives, regardless of gaps or breaks in the narratives? Above all, while matrilineal and patrilineal divisions are evident in most communities today, historically, did they or others follow similar standardized forms of family, kinship organization, and community-building in a unilinear way?

This workshop is partly funded by the NWO-funded Veni Project “Matriarchal Islam: Gendering Sharia in the Indian Ocean world.” The focus thus is on Islamic communities in the Indian Ocean world, but it will also discuss various other parts of the Islamic world, especially the Middle East and North Africa, and the connections and comparisons among them through genealogical traces. This approach underscores the significance of interconnected and comparative perspectives on lineage claims among Muslims from Arabia, Asia and Africa, and helps understand their processes of self-identification and in defining their relationship with the religion they adhere to.

Those who are interested in attending can register by sending an e-mail to m.kooriadathodi@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Schedule Thursday, 16 November 2023

Room no. B13, Pieter de La Court Building

08.40 to 09.00: Meet & Greet

09.00-09.15: Welcome & Introduction: Mahmood Kooria

09.15-11.15: Panel 1

Sophie Blanchy (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), “How Can Sharia and Matrilineal Institutions be Articulated? Diverse Responses from the Comoros Archipelago”

Jeroen Duindam (Leiden University, the Netherlands), “Dynasty and Matriliny”

Ophira Gamliel (University of Glasgow, the UK), “Negotiations of Gender in Premodern Malayalam Literature”

11.15-11.30: Coffee break

11.30-13.00: Panel 2

Ayesha Chaudhry (University of British Columbia, Canada), “The Return: A Lyric Exploration”

Jasmin Mahazi (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Germany), “Ichumbo la Yae, AvuTila na Mamake: Matrifocal Affiliation and Lineage among the Bajuni/Swahili of the Western Indian Ocean”

13.00-14.00: Lunch break

14.00-16.00: Panel 3

Emma Kalb (University of Bonn, Germany), “Forms of Belonging: Exploring the Lineage-Making Possibilities for Eunuchs in Early Modern South Asia”

Mahmood Kooria (Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, the Netherlands), “Foreign Fathers and Local Mothers: Hybrid Lineages in the Origin Narratives of Matrilineal Muslims”

Signe Arnfred (Roskilde University, Denmark), “Islam and Gender on the Swahili Coast: Island Towns and Cultural Compromises”

16.00-16.15: Coffee break

16.30: Reception

Those who are interested in attending can register by sending an e-mail to m.kooriadathodi@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Schedule Friday, 17 November 2023

Room no. B23, Pieter de La Court Building

09.00-11.00: Panel 4

Johann Heiss (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria), “Women, Patrilinearity, and Changes in Islamic Regions”

Carmeliza Soares Da Costa Rosario (University of Bergen, Norway), “Their Nephews, Down, Down!: Matrilineage Endurance against the Postcolonial State and Islamic Reform in Northern Mozambique”

Soheb Niazi (International Institute for Asian Studies, the Netherlands), “Qassab as Quraish: Contesting Genealogy and Descent in the Urdu Public Sphere”

11.00-11.15: Coffee break

11.15-13.15: Panel 5

Julien Levesque (University of Zürich, Switzerland), “Institutionalizing Genealogies: Sayyid Associations and Community Preservation”

Mizuho Matsuo (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan & IIAS, Netherlands), “The Politics of Genealogy Making and Gender: Dutch Burgher in Sri Lanka.”

Francesca Declich (University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy), “‘We Need to Change the Way People See Us”: Modifying Lineages and Maintaining Matrilines among the Muslim Zigula of Somalia.” 

13.15-14.15: Lunch break

14.15-15.00: Concluding Session

Final Discussion

Those who are interested in attending can register by sending an e-mail to m.kooriadathodi@hum.leidenuniv.nl

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