Anthropologist Christopher Joll to speak in Wellington on 6 July 2016

Sufism in Thailand: From Historical Ethnography and Cultural Geography

On Wednesday 6 July Dr Christopher M. Joll will give a presentation at Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Joll is a New Zealand anthropologist who has been based in Thailand for over 16 years. He has a PhD from the National University of Malaysia in 2009, and is the author of Muslim Merit-making in Thailand’s Far-south (Springer 2011). He currently works at the Research Development Unit at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University (Bangkok), and is affiliated at the Institute of Religion Culture and Peace, Payap University (Chiang Mai). Although his research interests are inter-disciplinary, inter-religious, and trans-national, his primary ethnographic subjects have been Thailand’s diverse Muslim minority.

Wednesday 6th July 2016
12 - 12.50pm
KP 14 / 101
Kelburn Parade, Victoria University of Wellington

Presentation abstract

In this presentation, I introduce provisional research findings from my (on-going) multi-sited study of Sufism in Thailand that I began in late 2012. This is an Islamic constituency that about which no research has been conducted. For a number of decades, scholars appear to have been obsessing over the local impact of reformist movements, and the extent to which the insurgency in South Thailand (2004-present) has been influenced by transnational jihadism. I begin by relating how I stumbled into Sufism, how my ethnographic fieldwork became multi-sited, and how my research methods changed with my ethnographic subject. I relate my interest in Sufi orders between Central Thai and the southern border provinces provided new insights into the ethnic and sectarian diversity of Islam in this geo-body historically dominated by Theravada Buddhism. I describe which Sufi orders are present in Thailand, when, and through whom these were adopted and adapted. In addition to these elements of my historical ethnography of Siamese Sufism, this data provides new insights into the cultural geography of Islam in Thailand. I discussed the significance of Sufi orders having largely remained within the cultural milieu of their founders. For instance, the Qadriyyah of Central Thailand is absent in the Malay far-south, and the Ahmadiyyah-Badawiyyah in Thailand has not been widely adopted outside the Southern Thai-speaking Muslim communities.