Islam and the Humanities

Conference 2019

Jahfar Shareef Pokkanali

University of Bonn


Thinking Through Bricolage(s): Problematizing 'Islamic Architecture' in the Littorals of South India

The process of cultural production within the broader category of South Asian Islam is contingent upon encounters with many Indic structures at transregional and local levels from its social hierarchies to languages to material culture. Through the forms, motifs and imageries of 'Indic' mosques from the South Indian littorals, the paper problematises the complex relation between a specific social formations and a consequent Muslim material culture which is considered to be a bricolage of ideas, motifs and layout. This resultant variant of ‘Islamic architecture’ is seen as a collaborative enterprise involving many agents such as itinerant saints, scholars, Hindu Kings, and of various and varying unequal ethno-religious communities. Using the form and layout of these mosques, the paper aims to explore the creation of a sense of place that externally blends with its other ‘Indic’ religious spatialities. But, as we move from the outside to inside of these mosques, its visual language becomes more complicated. Contrary to earlier scholarships that see a passive reception of these architectural formations, I intend to articulate these forms as a result of an intellectually astute process of thinking and sitting together of many agents. Methodologically, this paper intends to contribute to the question of how the idea of bricolage can be a useful explanatory trope in approaching the ‘forms’ of South Asian Islam which is otherwise caught between the rhetoric of ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘vernacular’.