Samia Khatun deposited The Book of Marriage: Histories of Muslim Women in Twentieth-Century Australia on Humanities Commons 2 years, 2 months ago
From 1860 to the 1920s, Muslim merchants and workers from across British India and Afghanistan travelled to Australian shores to work in the extensive camel transportation network that underpinned the growth of capitalism in the Australian interior. Through marriage, South Asian women in addition to white women and Aboriginal women became part of families spanning the Indian Ocean. Yet, the life-worlds of these women are absent from Australian historiography and the field of Indian Ocean studies alike. When women do appear in Australian histories of Muslim communities, the orientalist accounts work to condemn Muslim men rather than shed light on women’s lives. Leading scholars of Indian Ocean mobilities on the other hand, have tended to equate masculinity with motion and femininity with stasis, omitting analyses of women’s life-trajectories across the Indian Ocean arena. In this article, I rethink the definitions of ‘motion’ that underpin Indian Ocean histories by reading marriage records as an archive of women’s motion. Using family archives spanning from Australia to South Asia, this article examines five women’s marriages to South Asian men in Australia. Challenging the racist accounts of gender relations that currently structure histories of Muslims in Australia, I turn to the intellectual traditions of colonised peoples in search of alternatives to orientalist narratives. Redeploying the Muslim narrative tradition of Kitab al-Nikah (Book of Marriage) to write feminist history, this article proposes a new framework to house histories of Muslim women.