AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 21

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Session 21: Local and Regional Manuscript Cultures in Southeast Asia

Organizer: Dietrich C. Lammerts, Rutgers University, USA

Chair: Uli Kozok, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

In recent years scholars of Southeast Asia have begun to reflect upon the materiality, aesthetics, and format of manuscripts as rich sites of historical or cultural meaning in their own right. The field has witnessed innovative studies that address how manuscripts and manuscript culture played an essential role in the development and dissemination of various bodies of cultural, religious, and technical knowledge. Yet to date there has been little in the way of conversation about the comparative possibilities this new attention to manuscripts might enable. This panel brings together a group of scholars engaged in the critical study of different literary genres and styles of manuscripts from mainland and island Southeast Asia. The presentations investigate common scribal and paratextual elements—preambles, colophons, indices, marginalia, etc.—found in regional manuscripts to explore the function and significance of manuscripts within their immediate contexts of circulation, transmission, and audience reception. They reflect on how these elements suggest important historical connections with broader manuscript and literary cultures both within Southeast Asia and beyond to South Asia and the Middle East. In discussion the panelists will consider current problems and prospects for comparative studies of Southeast Asian manuscript traditions.

Thresholds of interpretation on the threshold of change: Paratexts in late 19th century Javanese manuscripts
Ronit Ricci, Australian National University, Israel

Gerard Gennette’s acclaimed work (_Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation_, 1987;1997) invites us to consider how paratexts - titles, prefaces, dedications and dates, to name a few – introduce and frame the larger works of which they are but a small part. In this paper I employ the lens of paratextual study to explore the changing landscape of manuscript production in late nineteenth-early twentieth century Central Java. The rapid social and political changes taking place during this period were reflected, in part, in the ways manuscripts were produced, the significance attached to them, and the interactions and overlaps between such handwritten works and printed, published books. Based on research conducted at the Pura Pakualaman court library in Yogyakarta, I explore these shifts in Javanese manuscript culture, paying special attention to the paratexts that appeared at the opening and closing sections of manuscripts. I consider what such paratexts convey about changing ideas and practices of reading, writing, and knowledge transmission.

Marginalia in Hikayat Tanah Hitu; indications of the contextual meaning of the manuscript
Jan van der Putten, National University of Singapore, Netherlands

Hikayat Tanah Hitu is a history of the Moluccas till the mid-seventeenth century, the time of writing. The original was composed by Sifar al-Rijali while he was in exile at the court of Goa, Sulawesi. The copy preserved in the library of Leiden University has some indications as to whom the manuscript belonged and what the significance of the manuscript was for the owner's family. This paper will discuss the text while focusing on these indications which also suggest a connection to a middle-eastern manuscript tradition, quite unusual in other Malay manuscripts of this period. In doing this I hope to establish how marginalia and other characteristics in manuscripts can help to establish the contextual meaning of texts in manuscript form.

Scribal practices and the role of manuscripts in Burmese legal culture
Dietrich C. Lammerts, Rutgers University, USA

Research on premodern Southeast and South Asian law is perpetually bedeviled by the question of how legal texts and their manuscripts were actually used within the legal culture. In addressing this question scholars often turn to analyses of records of disputes or other external sources that document the citation or application of texts. Another fruitful approach is to investigate the imprint that particular uses of written law may have left on surviving manuscripts themselves. This presentation examines a number of different manuscript versions of a mid-17th century Pali language legal text and its bilingual Burmese-Pali commentary. Although the basic content of these versions is parallel across manuscripts, there are several significant variations in the overall organization of the text according to explicit structuring mechanisms—‘tables of contents’, ‘indices’, internal colophons, etc.—that were later added by scribes only in certain manuscript versions. Setting these variations within the history of broader regional scribal and reading practices, I show how their employment here was motivated by considerations for the specific jurisprudential and juridical contexts in which particular manuscripts functioned, and that they provide important and otherwise inaccessible insights about the role of texts and manuscripts in premodern Buddhist legal culture.