Penang Story Lecture & Conference: Penang and the Hajj


The Penang Story Lecture is open to the public and limited to 150 persons will be held in conjunction with a two-day closed workshop on “Penang and The Hajj”.

PENANG STORY LECTURE, Keynote Lecture: The Material World of the Hajj in Colonial-Era Southeast Asia by Eric Tagliacozzo, 18 August (Sunday), 3.30pm-5.00pm at E & O Hotel.

CONFERENCE on PENANG AND THE HAJJ, 17 & 18 August (Saturday & Sunday), 9.00am-5.00pm at E & O Hotel.

Download registration form here.

The Material World of the Hajj in Colonial-Era Southeast Asiaeric

by Eric Tagliacozzo, Professor of History, Cornell University


The economic connections of the pre-colonial Hajj were very important; they brought Southeast Asia into a wider orbit of contacts across the historical Indian Ocean. Scholars have asked, as a result of this, how vital the economy of the Hajj may have been in creating an “Indian Ocean world”, with major thinkers both championing and dismissing this notion.  We know from a number of period observers in the 17th and 18th centuries that the number and dimensions of ships engaged in the Hajj were substantial, and that the Mughal Empire, Ottoman, Yemen, and Southeast Asia all become intertwined in the routes of such craft sailing across the ocean’s rim.  In my lecture I will examine these far-flung connections, while also concentrating on Southeast Asia and its trans-oceanic economies more locally.  I will do this by looking at the careers of eminent Hajjis such as Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar, as well as through classical texts from the region such as the Tuhfat al-Nafis.  I argue that the Dutch were crucial as facilitators of the pilgrimage, and I sketch out some of the circumstances of the Javanese Hajj from the 17th to the early 19th centuries.  I will also focus on the the British Case, where the Malay Peninsula and Penang became important as well in sending these travelers overseas, in increasingly larger numbers as the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries wore on.  I highlight the means by which pilgrims from Southeast Asia were able to perform their Hajj, and the very real – and sometimes very difficult – material circumstances of their passage.  This was a world in the making, one that connected the paths of quite ancient travelers to the voyages of pilgrims from our own time.

Eric Tagliacozzo

Eric Tagliacozzo is Professor of History at Cornell University. His first book, Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier (Yale 2005) won the Harry Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies.  His second monograph, The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (Oxford, 2013) has just been published. Tagliacozzo is also the editor or co-editor of four other books, and serves as the Director of the Comparative Muslim Societies Program at Cornell, as well as Director of the Modern Indonesia Project and editor of the journal INDONESIA.

Click for Eric Tagliacozzo, ‘The Pilgrimage to Mecca from Southeast Asia’, SEAP Bulletin 2009-2010.



sharomDato’ Dr. Sharom Ahmat is trained as a Historian. He received a First Class Honours degree from the University of Singapore (1962); MA in American History from Brown University (1963) and a PHD in Southeast Asian History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1969) He started his academic career as an Assistant Lecturer in History at the University of Singapore in 1963 rising through the ranks to become Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean of Arts and Social Sciences. In 1973 he was “head hunted” to become Professor of History and Dean of Humanities at Universiti Sains Malaysia. In 1975 he was appointed the University’s first Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Affairs), followed by portfolios in Academic affairs (1978) and Research and Development (1980).