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Harvard/MIT Series: South Asia and Its Diasporas

Samia Khatun, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Melbourne

Discussant: Vivek Bald, Associate Professor, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, MIT

Australian deserts today are dotted with the remains of 19th century mosques. Built by South Asian merchants and workers in the era of the Australian camel trade, 1860 – 1930, these mosques are rich repositories of the things once most precious to Muslim travellers. Beginning with the discovery of a 19th century book of Bengali sufi poetry in a mosque in Broken Hill, Khatun explores the epistemological traditions that travelled with colonized peoples moving across the terrain of empire.

Khatun asks: What role can the poetry of colonised peoples play in crafting new histories of South Asian travellers? What historiographical practises did Aboriginal people deploy to memorialise South Asians travelling through Australian deserts? On what alternative grounds can we place histories of South Asian travellers?