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Reading between the Lines: Islamic Interlinear Translation in Indonesia

Fri, April 1, 12:45 to 2:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 603

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


This panel takes the practice of interlinear translation from Arabic to Javanese and Malay as a lens through which to consider historical change, religious authority, literary writing and linguistic shifts in Indonesia and its diaspora. Presenters approach this theme from a historical, anthropological and literary perspective and explore translations produced in diverse locales including Aceh, Java and colonial Ceylon.

Interlinear translation – the practice of translating Arabic religious texts word for word into a vernacular – has been practiced in Indonesia since the sixteenth century. Such translations played a significant role in the early spread of Islam in the region, in the development of various intellectual traditions, and in the transformation of local languages as a result of an influx of Arabic. Today such translations continue to be produced and read in religious educational settings where future generations of Islamic students and scholars are shaped.

Dan Birchok will consider how ethnographic work on interlinear translations in Aceh can help scholars rethink the history of religion as an anthropological category; Saiful Umam will discuss significant changes in Arabic-to-Javanese interlinear translation over time and the importance of such shifts to understanding wider trends in Javanese Muslim society; Ronit Ricci will explore how sound and silence across languages transpire between the lines of interlinear translations produced by diasporic Malays in colonial Ceylon. Laurie Sears will serve as Discussant and Chair. The panel has three presenters so as to allow ample time for discussion.

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