The White Mosque: A Silk Road Memoir

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Forthcoming Media, Novels, Religion on 2022-09-13 01:54Z by Steven

The White Mosque: A Silk Road Memoir

Hurst Publishers
October 2022
304 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781787388079

Sofia Samatar, Assistant Professor of English
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

A rich history of wanderers, exiles and intruders. A haunting personal journey through Central Asia. An intimate reflection on mixed identity shaped by cultural crossings.

In the late 1800s, a group of German-speaking Mennonites fled Russia for Muslim Central Asia, to await Christ’s return.

Over a century later, Sofia Samatar traces their gruelling journey across desert and mountains, and its improbable fruit: a small Christian settlement inside the Khanate of Khiva. Named ‘The White Mosque’ after the Mennonites’ whitewashed church, the village—a community of peace, prophecy, music and martyrs—lasted fifty years.

Within this curious tale, Sofia discovers a tapestry of characters connected by the ancient Silk Road: a fifteenth-century astronomer-king; an intrepid Swiss woman traveller; the first Uzbek photographer; a free spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. Along the way, in a voice both warm and wise, she explores her own complex upbringing as an American Mennonite of colour, the daughter of a Swiss-American Christian and a Somali Muslim.

On this pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, Samatar traces the porous borders of identity and narrative. When you leave your tribe, what remains? How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of life’s buried archives and startling connections, does a person construct a self?

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Anglo-India and the End of Empire

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2022-09-12 16:14Z by Steven

Anglo-India and the End of Empire

Hurst Publishers
September 2022
370 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781787383128

Uther Charlton-Stevens, Fellow
Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland

A startling new history of a community’s struggle to be heard as Empire waned in India, with echoes for all those of mixed heritage.

The standard image of the Raj is of an aloof, pampered and prejudiced British elite lording it over an oppressed and hostile Indian subject population. Like most caricatures, this obscures as much truth as it reveals. The British had not always been so aloof. The earlier, more cosmopolitan period of East India Company rule saw abundant ‘interracial’ sex and occasional marriage, alongside greater cultural openness and exchange. The result was a large and growing ‘mixed-race’ community, known by the early twentieth century as Anglo-Indians.

Notwithstanding its faults, Empire could never have been maintained without the active, sometimes enthusiastic, support of many colonial subjects. These included Indian elites, professionals, civil servants, businesspeople and minority groups of all kinds, who flourished under the patronage of the imperial state, and could be used in a ‘divide and rule’ strategy to prolong colonial rule. Independence was profoundly unsettling to those destined to become minorities in the new nation, and the Anglo-Indians were no exception.

This refreshing account looks at the dramatic end of British rule in India through Anglo-Indian eyes, a perspective that is neither colonial apologia nor nationalist polemic. Its history resonates strikingly with the complex identity debates of the twenty-first century.

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