Connected Histories

Discussion Points for When Asia Was the World

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Giancarlo Casale suggests questions and topics to encourage and guide discussion.


When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the "Riches of the East"

Were you surprised to find that When Asia Was the World—a recommended for a reading list on the history of Islam—actually begins with the story of a Chinese Buddhist’s voyage to India? How is your perception of Islam changed when you see the Muslim faith framed in terms of its relations Asia, instead of with the Western world?

Each of the chapters in When Asia Was the World is based on a first-person historical narrative, with one exception: the shhipwreck, off the coast of Sumatra, of the Intan, a ship that serves as the "protagonist" of chapter four. To what extent can material objects “tell stories”? In what way is their use analogous to written texts, and in what ways are they different? Do you think it is possible to "write history" without written evidence from the past?

In what way do the individual life experiences in When Asia Was the World form a coherent whole. Besides the experience of travel itself, what are the recurring themes and points of intersection between the different chapters? Are there any that seem not to fit?

Stuart Gordon’s book covers a large sweep of time, but can it really be considered “history”?

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"Muslim Journeys | Item #236: Discussion Points for When Asia Was the World", April 17, 2024