Charles Sullivan - This Song Guards The Night: Reading power in the world of an early modern Javanese Islamic Incantation
Charley Sullivan is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Michigan. He is recently returned from a year of dissertational research in Solo, Central Java, supported by a Fulbright Fellowship.
This Song Guards The Night: Reading power in the world of an early modern Javanese Islamic Incantation
The Kidung rumeksa ing wengi, or “Song that guards the night,” is a protective incantation set in macapat, a classical form of Javanese sung poetry. Popularly attributed to Sunan Kalijaga, one of the nine wali credited with bringing Islam to Java, the kidung offers an explicitly Islamic reading of Javanese cosmology at the cusp of the early modern era. This presentation examines a particular version of the text, found in a manuscript commissioned on the order of the future king of Surakarta, Pakubuwono V, in the early 19th century, a period of significant disruption of Javanese royal power. In a preliminary exploration of important background materials for my dissertation on geography, identity, power and modernity in 20th century Central Java, this paper traces geographies of both spiritual and royal power imbedded in the incantation. It will ask which elements of the worldview presented in this incantation might be read as Islamic, which as Javanese, and whether there is in fact any significant difference between the two.
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