Songlines and Lifelines: Women and Muslim Vernacular Cultures on the Malabar Coast

deadline for submissions: 
October 20, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Aligarh Muslim University
contact email: 

Call For Chapters 

Songlines and Lifelines: Women and Muslim Vernacular Cultures on the Malabar Coast  

Muslim vernacular cultures on the Malabar Coast have recently attracted international critical attention from researchers working at the intersections of the humanities and social sciences (Muneer 2016, 2022a, 2022b, 2023; Gamliel 2017; Arafath 2018, 2020; Ottathingal 2020;  Sutton 2022; Weinrich 2022; Ul-Ihthisam and Menon 2022—to cite a representative few).  These researchers, who mainly focus on the Arabi Malayalam literary culture of the  Mappilas, offer incisive insights into this literary culture—historically and contemporaneously— in ways that are especially remarkable for their interdisciplinary methodological gambits. However, women’s wide-ranging role in the Muslim vernacular cultures of the Malabar Coast is conspicuous by its absence in this otherwise intriguing and significant scholarship, which started appearing on the scene in the mid-2010s (Cf. Sherin  2021, a notable exception that proves the rule). This proposed edited volume of essays, to be submitted to the Routledge Asian Studies book series, seeks to bridge the research gaps in  Malabari Muslim literary and cultural studies by spotlighting women and their multi-faceted contributions.  

Archival records dating back to the eighteenth century unravel the role of Muslim women in the production, consumption, and dissemination of oral-literary texts in vernacular Arabi  Malayalam script in the coastal Malabar belt of South India. Women’s role in fashioning and sustaining “Mappila literary formation” (Muneer 2015) can hardly be overemphasized,  although such a role must largely be retrieved from the edges, margins, and shadows of texts,  sounds, and histories, as it were. Similarly, the genre of song-poetry, pastiching the Persian Arabic style and Indo-Jewish traditions, was co-opted by women to compose marriage songs,  elegies, war songs, and songs of love and sensuality since the early nineteenth century.  Equally significant is the engagement of women with vernacular Arabi Malayalam magazines, and the essay and pamphleteering cultures of the Malabar Coast. While thinking through the literary formations of Muslim women in Malabar, the volume seeks to conceptualize the vernacular literary and cultural spaces of South Asian Malabari Muslim women complicating the European genealogies of print culture, of Western binaries of the private/public, sacred/profane and resistance/submission, among other things.  

In tandem with other vernacular cultures of South Asia, the Arabi Malayalam compositions by women simultaneously embrace the orality and written, with the aural, visual, and embodied performatives producing the oral-written texts and vice versa. Drawing extensively from the scholarship on vernacular literary cultures of South Asia, this volume is interested in chronicling literary communities/performative cultures that are embedded in the aural, visual,  emotive, and multisensorial spaces of Malabari women. The volume will also explore the entanglements of the domestic, social, and sacred intimate spaces of women with literary practices and performance cultures, formulating a breakaway from conventional feminist geography, and spatial studies on gender which has often relied upon a privileging of the public over the private, of the literary over the verbal, and so on. 

The scope of the volume includes, but is not limited to:  

• Women and the formation(s) vernacular/Arabi Malayalam literary culture  (historical/archival/performative reconstructions/interventions in historical  anthropology) 

• Malabari women, “multilingual locals” and “significant geographies” (Laachir,  Marzagora, and Orsini 2018) 

• Arabi Malayalam literary cultures of Muslim women – poetry, novels, fiction, semi-fiction, travelogues, essays, newspaper culture, ethics literature, and didactic  pamphlets  

• Oral-performative traditions – Oral vernacular poetry and Performative communities  among Muslim women  

• Women writing love, desire, and sexuality  

• Memoirs, short biographies, and autobiographies in Arabi Malayalam  

• Storytelling communities, Reading Groups, Literary Production, and Publication in  Arabi Malayalam  

• Space and Vernacular Cultures – The politics and poetics of spaces, Shrinescapes,  Madrasah spaces, Intimate religious communities, and the Domestic  

• Malabari women's sociality and “care aesthetics” (Thompson 2023)  • Food Cultures – Recipes, and Kitchen Communities  

• Disease, Pandemic, and Disasters  

• Women writing across the Indian Ocean – Travelling texts and vernacular cultures  across Malabar  

If you are interested in contributing to this edited volume, please submit your chapter proposal (around 300 words) and a short biography (no more than 100 words) to the editors  A.K. Muneer ( and Simi K Salim ( by  October 15th, 2023. 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the editors: 

A.K. Muneer  

(Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University) 



Simi K Salim  

(Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras)