Title For God or Empire
Subtitle Sayyid Fadl and the Indian Ocean World
Author Wilson Chacko Jacob
ISBN 9781503609631
List price GBP 23.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 304
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher Stanford University Press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“Wilson Chacko Jacob joins the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds within a hitherto hidden global history to explore the making and movement of ideas. A forceful intellectual intervention in the way we understand sovereignty.”

Faisal Devji, University of Oxford


For God or Empire is a gripping global history of the Indian Ocean world, with striking theoretical implications. Wilson Chacko Jacob both recounts the story of modern state sovereignty and troubles it from the grounds of divine sovereignty that cannot be simply read as political theology. A brilliant critical historical inquiry into the present of state sovereignty, threaded with and opposed by life’s other trajectories.”

Samera Esmeir, University of California, Berkeley


Sayyid Fadl, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, led a unique life—one that spanned much of the nineteenth century and connected India, Arabia, and the Ottoman Empire. For God or Empire tells his story, part biography and part global history, as his life and legacy afford a singular view on historical shifts of power and sovereignty, religion and politics.

Wilson Chacko Jacob recasts the genealogy of modern sovereignty through the encounter between Islam and empire-states in the Indian Ocean world. Fadl’s travels in worlds seen and unseen made for a life that was both unsettled and unsettling. And through his life at least two forms of sovereignty—God and empire—become apparent in intersecting global contexts of religion and modern state formation. While these changes are typically explained in terms of secularization of the state and the birth of rational modern man, the life and afterlives of Sayyid Fadl—which take us from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Indian Ocean worlds to twenty-first century cyberspace—offer a more open-ended global history of sovereignty and a more capacious conception of life.





Note on Transliteration

Introduction: Life In-Between

Chapter 1. Remaking the Indian Ocean World: Sufis, Sovereigns, and the Mappilas of Malabar

Chapter 2. “Where the Sun Rises to Where the Sun Sets”: Origins, Life, and the Faces of Sovereignty

Chapter 3. “The Tear Will Widen”: Reordering Government Madras to Istanbul

Chapter 4. “Time Is the Only Veil”: Sufism and the Politics of Recognition

Chapter 5. Uncertain Returns: Cyberspace, Genetics, and Genealogies

Chapter 6. “This True and Merciful Way”: Sovereignty and Life’s End(s)

Conclusion: Sovereignty and Life’s Mysterious Unity



About the Author:

Wilson Chacko Jacob is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University. He is the author of Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870-1940 (2011).

Target Audience:

This book is useful for people interested in history, anthropology, political science and religious studies.



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