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Travelling Texts: Arabic Literate Learning in Coastal East Africa, c. 1860–1930

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses something more fleeting but also the most concrete aspect of reformist thought: its words. It also discusses the fabric underpinning the networks formed by travel, trade and teacher-scholar relationships; the printed books, manuscripts, large and small, texts and commentaries that were part of the making of Sufi reformism in the western Indian Ocean. The chapter also addresses text in the most concrete terms. It discusses What books were being circulated, and who owned them? In many ways, these questions echo those of the German orientalist C.H. Becker, who in 1911 asked: "What books come into the hands of local mwalimus and so exercise a direct influence on the intellectual life of our colony? The chapter analyses the diffusion of text in the Western Indian Ocean in a related manner; along lines of integration versus diversification, or, in an alternative terminology; globalization and localization.

Keywords: Arabic language; Coastal East Africa; Mecca; Sufi reformism; western Indian Ocean



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