Nurfadzilah Yahaya studies the social history of Muslim Diasporas based in Southeast Asia and across the Indian Ocean. She received her PhD from Princeton University in 2012. Her dissertation, Courting Jurisdictions: Colonial Administration of Islamic Law Pertaining to Arabs in the British Straits Settlements and the Netherlands East Indies, 1860-1941 explores the legal lives of Arabs merchants during the colonial period. Using law reports and court testimony, she examines the implementation of Islamic family law in Southeast Asia which rooted and fixed the lives of highly mobile Diasporic merchants in significant ways. She finds that Arab communities generally tended to seek justice and accountability in colonial legal arenas because they had opportunities to influence colonial legal administration through political and social means. Through cases studies involving marriage, divorce and family endowments, her dissertation analyzes the legal strategies of these mercantile families who tended to prioritize economic imperatives above religious ideals.
For her next project, she will explore the impact of European colonial regulations on religious animal slaughter methods during the early twentieth century. By looking at debates concerning animal welfare in both the Islamic and Western worlds, she traces how Islamic and Western ethical conceptions diverged and come together. She is particularly interested in the impact of technology on changing religious norms in the Islamic world.
She is currently teaching a seminar on Islamic law. In Spring 2013, she will teach a course on Islam in the Indian Ocean.
Transnational history; Islam; Indian Ocean; Diaspora studies; Religion and Technology; Law; Colonialism; Animals
Articles in Edited Volumes:
“British Colonial Law and the Establishment of Waqfs by Arabs in the Straits Settlements, 1860-1941” in The Worlds of the Trust. Lionel Smith, ed. (under contract with Cambridge University Press, September 2012).
“Chapter 4 -Tea and Company: Interactions between the Arab Elite and the British in Cosmopolitan Singapore” in Hadhrami Diaspora in Southeast Asia:
Identity Maintenance or Assimilation? Ahmad Ibrahim Abushouk and Hassan Ahmed Ibrahim, eds. Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 57-80.