Performing Authority: the ‘Islamic’ Seals of British Colonial Officers
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Cultural appropriation was as much a part of empire as military force. The use of ‘Islamic’ seals by British colonial officials is one example of this. In his record of nineteenth century Egyptian society, Edward William Lane wrote that ‘[a]lmost every person who can afford it has a seal-ring, even though he be a servant’. The function of seals as symbols of textual authority and ownership is deeply rooted in the Islamic world, especially in Arabic and Persian-speaking societies. Historically, seals were used for authorising various documents, including letters and legal contracts, and for marking the ownership of books and manuscripts.