Book / A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World

Elizabeth A. Lambourn. 2018. Abraham’s Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ISBN 9781107173880 / Hardback / 316 pages.

About the book: From a single merchant’s list of baggage begins a history that explores the dynamic world of medieval Indian Ocean exchanges. This fresh and innovative perspective on Jewish merchant activity shows how this list was a component of broader trade connections that developed between the Islamic Mediterranean and South Asia in the Middle Ages.

Drawing on a close reading of this unique twelfth-century document, found in the Cairo Genizah and written in India [in fact in Malabar!] by North African merchant Abraham Ben Yiju, Lambourn focuses on the domestic material culture and foods that structured the daily life of such India traders, on land and at sea.

This is an exploration of the motivations and difficulties of maintaining homes away from home, and the compromises that inevitably ensued. Abraham’s Luggage demonstrates the potential for writing challenging new histories in the accidental survival of apparently ordinary ephemera.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction. A list of luggage from the Indian Ocean world
2. From Ifriqiya to Malibarat – introducing Abraham Ben Yiju

Part I. A Mediterranean Society in Malibarat:

3. Making homes and friends: on shopping and Suhba
4. Making a meal of it: on food cultures
5. A Jewish home: on ritual foods

Part II. A Mediterranean Society at Sea:

6. The ‘simple’ bare necessities: on water and rice
7. ‘Things for the cabin’: inhabiting the ocean
8. The balanced body: on vinegar and other sour foods
9. From Malibarat to Misr and beyond – afterlives

Appendix: Abraham’s list of luggage.

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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup