Event — Masterclass

Indian Ocean histories of animals and spirits

Recent scholarship on Asian history has underlined the importance of looking at animal translocations. During this masterclass, we will explore animal economies and their impact on a variety of Indian Ocean settings.

This masterclass is taught by Dr Teren Sevea (U. of Pennsylvania, USA) and is intended for students as well as PhD candidates and other early-career researchers.

Organised by the Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies (IIAS; KITLV; Leiden University), in conjunction with the public lecture Tales of Flying Sufis. Singapore Islam and Sufism across the Oceans (10 March)

This class examines the history of charismatic megafauna and ‘religious economies’ of the early modern and modern Indian Ocean. It begins by discussing early modern and modern animal economies, paying attention to economic, political and religious developments and the circulation of animals, healers, trainers, mahouts, animal spirits and spirit mediums.

The class will engage published sources that are informative about the infrastructures and bureaucracies that developed across the global animal economy, while being rich with data about the ways in which animals were trapped locally and charismatically.

In examining the nature of animal economies, this class will also engage the question of whether ‘thinking oceanically’ influences the study of religion and the process of writing histories of animals and the Unseen. In drawing attention to circulations across the Indian Ocean and Eurasia, the readings introduce the charismatic megafauna and animal economies from a variety of settings including Ottoman Turkey and the Malay world.

Teren Sevea is a historian of religion in South and Southeast Asia at the Department of South Asia Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of a book entitled Miracles and Material Life: Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya, and has co-edited a volume entitled Islamic Connections: Muslim Societies in South and Southeast Asia. He is also the author of number of book chapters and journal articles pertaining to Indian Ocean networks, Sufi textual traditions, Islamic sex manuals and the socioeconomic significance of spirits, that have been printed in journals such as Third World Quarterly and Modern Asian Studies


Intended audience

Advanced students, PhD candidates, early-career researchers

Registration (required) / Information

Please send an email to Tom Hoogervorst if you would like to attend: hoogervorst@kitlv.nl  


The Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies is a collaboration between IIAS, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and Leiden University.