Final Public Oral Exam: Saarah Jappie

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
January 18, 2018 - 9:00am
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Between Makassars: Site, Story, and the Transoceanic Afterlives of Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar


Michael Laffan, adviser
Jacob Dlamini
Elizabeth Davis (ANT)
Barbara Cooper, Rutgers University
Isabel Hofmeyer, University of Witwatersbrand


From the mid-seventeenth century until the late 1700s, Southern Africa and the Malay-Indonesian archipelago were connected as important hubs within Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie; VOC) networks. During this period, the VOC transported thousands of slaves and a smaller number of political exiles from around the Indian Ocean Basin to the Cape of Good Hope, and, sometimes, back again. In the past decade, scholars have begun to examine the nature of early modern flows between the Cape of Good Hope and the Dutch East Indies. However, few studies have addressed the ongoing repercussions of these circulations in either region. This dissertation explores the afterlives of early modern movements between the East Indies and Southern Africa through the lens of site and story, and over the longue durée. It focuses on the case of eastern Indonesian Sufi scholar and political exile, Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar (1626-1699), and his cultural afterlives in Makassar, Indonesia and Macassar, South Africa. Drawing on archival, oral history, and ethnographic sources, it demonstrates how Shaykh Yusuf’s movements and their aftermaths gave rise to new sites, narrative traditions, and mnemonic communities in each context. In turn, a growing awareness of Shaykh Yusuf as a common site of memory has inspired postcolonial “reconnections” between Indonesia and South Africa. This is thus a story of both separation and connection; of spatially-fixed, distinct microhistories and the transoceanic flows between them. Through its multi-sited approach, the dissertation provides a rich, comparative account of two formerly VOC-controlled societies. By foregrounding sites of memory, it challenges existing understandings of transregional connectedness. On the one hand, it demonstrates that connectedness need not entail movement. Instead, largely immobile communities spread across vast regions may be linked through shared imaginings of a common past. On the other hand, through its extended temporal framework, it illuminates the flipside of connection: rupture.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge: 105 Dickinson Hall.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.