Dr Joll’s principal ethnographic subjects might have been Thailand’s Muslim minority, but his research interests are inter-disciplinary (anthropology, history, theology, Islamic studies), inter-religious (Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity), and trans-national (Thailand and Malaysia).
Dr Joll conducted multi-sited fieldwork among followers of Sufi orders scattered between Thailand’s Central plains and the Malay-dominated far-south. This project furthered interests in the anthropology of Islam, but led him into stumbling serentipidiously into both visual anthropology, and the cultural geography of the Thai/Malay Peninsula.
This paper seeks to respond to the perceived dearth of studies pursuing an explicitly comparative approach to Southeast Asian historiography. Before the publication of Chris Baker’s Ayutthaya Rising From Land or Sea?, there were a few examples in the secondary literature on “littoral“, and “mainland” of any engagement between Thai Studies specialists and members of the Malay Studies Guild.
Although this paper seeks to build on Baker’s seminal contribution to comparative historiography vis-à-vis mainland Southeast Asia subservient to Ayutthaya, and Melaka, I ask questions about what insights into Melaka in the 15th century might be provided from an exploration of developments in the 16th. I argue that the prosperity of port cities such as Ayutthaya and Patani following 1511, confirms Melaka’s regional importance in the 15th Century. Furthermore, the presence of transcultural entrepreneurs in Siamese palaces and ports suggests Ayutthaya to have actively imitated Melaka’s highly successful cosmopolitan model. Finally, I consider case studies of how aspects of Melaka’s religious cosmopolitanism spread to Ayutthaya. These include Sufi tariqat, and Persian mercantile networks present in South Indian port cities arriving via transpeninsular portages revitalised by mercantile networks forced to establish new operational hubs.