KITA Discourse Series 01/2018: Visualizing Vernacular Sufism in Central Thailand, 6 February 2018


On 6 February 2018 (Tuesday), KITA had co-organized KITA Discourse Series 1/2018 with the following details:

Title: Visualizing Vernacular Sufism in Central Thailand
Speaker: Dr. Christopher M. Joll (Thammasat University, Thailand)
Venue: KITA Meeting Room

Abstract: In this seminar, I present a series of fieldwork photos taken at a series of pilgrimages to the shrine (maqam) of Sheikh Muhammad ‘Ali Shukri (d. 1932), in Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya. The presentation of these visual vignettes is prefaced by a short summary of Ayutthaya’s cosmopolitan past. This explains the presence of a diverse Muslim population in central Thailand, including the Qadriyyah Sufi order that has been a part of Ayutthaya’s religious mosaic since the early 16th century. I relate relevant details of the introduction by the Sheikh of an Indonesian hybrid of the Qadriyyah (Qadiriyyh wa Naqshabandiyyah) after studying in Mecca with the successor to its founder in the late 19th century. Following a description of the four annual pilgrimages attended by 3,000 members of this Sufi order, I discuss some of the ritual elements related to the shrine of this local saint (wali), which include the fulfilling of vows with quintessentially Thai garlands, and a Thai marching band leading a nocturnal procession in which the saint’s chair and personal effects are paraded anti-clockwise seven times, locally referred to as tawaf.

About the Speaker: Dr. Christopher M. Joll is a New Zealand anthropologist who has been based in Thailand for 18 years. His primary ethnographic subjects since stumbling into anthropology 10 years ago have been Thailand’s Muslim minority. He completed his PhD from the National University of Malaysia in 2009, and his first monograph (Muslim Merit Making in Thailand’s Far South) was published by Springer in 2011. He is affiliated with the Faculty of Anthropology and Sociology at Thammasat University (Bangkok), but has been a research associate at the Religious Studies Program, since July 2017.