Research students

Saarah Jappie

Saarah JappieI was born in Johannesburg and raised in Sydney, Australia. After completing a Bachelor of International Studies in French and Indonesian Studies at the University of New South Wales, I returned to South Africa to explore my Cape Town roots. In 2009, inspired by my work as a researcher in the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project, I embarked upon an MA degree in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, supported by the Harry Crossley Research Fellowship for Masters Study. My MA project brought together my background in Southeast Asian studies with my growing interest in Islam at the Cape, dealing with the Arabic-Malay and Arabic-Afrikaans manuscript tradition of Cape Town. Inspired by the idea of a ‘biography’ of the archive, this project explored how these 19th-century documents, originally used for religious, mystical and communicative purposes, had become part of contemporary Muslim heritage and identity in Cape Town. Although the kietaabs were the focus of the study, I found that mapping their biography also offered a lens through which to view broader historical and social dynamics, such as linguistic development, religious reforms and identity politics in Cape Town. I am currently a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Princeton University. My dissertation project, still in its early stages, extends upon my earlier work on connections between South Africa and Southeast Asia. Focusing on the life and multiple tombs of 17th-century exile Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar, the project explores transoceanic links between the two regions, through the themes of exile, death, space and memory.