Struggling With History

Islam and Cosmopolitanism in the Western Indian Ocean

Edward Simpson


Kai Kresse

Part of the Society and History in the Indian Ocean Series

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Struggling With History Hardback
December 2007£45.00
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Struggling With History Paperback
December 2007£22.00
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This volume compares and contrasts anthropological and historical approaches to the study of the Indian Ocean by focusing on the vexed nature of ‘cosmopolitanism’. The chapters contribute to current debates on the nature of cosmopolitanism, the comparative study of Muslim societies, and the study of colonial and post-colonial contexts. There are few books on the market that combine serious interdisciplinary scholarship and regional ethnographic expertise with comparable ambition.


Edward Simpson is Professor of Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London, and Director of the SOAS South Asia Institute. He is the author of The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and Amnesia in Gujarat, India (also published by Hurst); and Muslim Society and the Western Indian Ocean.

Kai Kresse is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of St Andrews and Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. Edward Simpson is Lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths College and an ESRC Research Fellow.


‘Struggling with History is a major and very timely addition to scholarship both on a theoretical and on an empirical level. It engages with the much debated and often abused concept of cosmopolitanism, drawing on a wealth of anthropological and historical studies from the Western Indian Ocean rim. Incidentally, this demonstrates the importance of non-Western studies to the development of global historical concepts. In their own right, the case-studies contribute greatly to our understanding of the differences and commonalities of urban centres from East Africa to India which were linked to the Indian Ocean. This highly readable book ought to become a standard work of reference.’ — Ulrike Freitag, Free University and Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin

‘This volume represents the latest phase of the effort of thinking through what constitutes the Indian Ocean as a region and how to characterise the fluency of its inhabitants. … The chapters offer a fascinating repertoire of Muslim politics and history. … As the contributors to this exciting book show, even as the horizons of “cosmopolitan” knowledge and sophistication expand from local and regional to national, transnational, and global levels, this civility comes under increasing challenge.’ — Michael Lambek, University of Toronto and lSE