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Personal profile

Research interests

I am an anthropologist with a specialisation in the political and social meanings of Islamic practice in Indonesia. My major role at Monash is the coordination and teaching of our Indonesian Studies program.

In my research, I have chiefly focussed on the embodied routines of Islamic life in Indonesia. In my view, these are underestimated for their importance in explaining political and social life more generally. My major projects have focussed on: an intercession ritual popular in West Java; Islamic preaching and everyday life; commemoration of sub-national Islamic legacies, and; the distinctive meanings of practice in times of rapid change. 

My most recent publication is a working paper written with two great colleagues from UIN Sunan Gunung Djati, Bandung: Dede Syarif and Mokh. Fakhruroji. The paper is entitled Islamic preaching and state regulation in Indonesia, and was published by the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at the University of Melbourne. The paper can be downloaded from here: https://law.unimelb.edu.au/centres/cilis

I have strong reasons for wanting to write this paper. While doing previous research on preaching in Indonesia, I had noticed that preachers are generally understood through a fairly narrow frame - the preachers that receive attention outside Indonesia are frequently angry ones that preach intolerance. So, the right people to write about the sensitive topic of regulation should ideally be researchers with a good idea of how preaching is a reality of everyday life that goes way beyond intolerance and conflict. For many Indonesians, preaching is their only and most meaningful engagement with Islam. Hence the three of us set to work on this overview and the associated recommendations.

Apart from that, Indonesia is a very interesting place because its regulatory regime is so liberal. In Brunei and Malaysia, preachers must be certified, and the Friday sermon is centrally prepared. Not so in Indonesia - the state does not attempt either of these things. 

Before the working paper, my most recent publication was 'Grave visiting (Ziyara) in Indonesia', which I co-wrote with Lewis Mayo. Lewis and I are very interested in the ways in which the participatory patterns emerging in pilgrimage to sacred sites do not match the general patterns of public religion in Indonesia. Mt Kawi, near Malang in East Java, is visited by Muslims, Christians, followers of Chinese religions, and followers of Javanese spirituality. We trace out the conditions that enable this, and the ways in which partitipation at the site departs from the broader public narrative of religion in Indonesia. Our entry point to this research was the work of Im Yang Tju (Tan Hong Boen), who published an extraordinary work about Gunung Kawi in Chinese in 1953. 

My most recent publication (but two) is ‘An Anthropological Approach to the Islamic Turn in Indonesia’s Regional Politics,’ published in TRaNS: Trans –Regional and –National Studies of Southeast Asia 6:2 (2018). This article represents my thinking on how we should understand the relationship between everyday Islamic life and the Shariah regulations that have emerged in Indonesia over the last fifteen or so years. Having spent so much time participating in the routines of everyday Islamic life, I think that relationship is not well understood. I am very grateful to my friends at TRANS for publishing this articleI am very happy to send a PDF of the article to anyone wishing to read it.

 

Biography

Research area keywords

  • Anthropology of Indonesia
  • Ritual
  • Religion
  • Islamic Culture and Society
  • Cultures of Indonesian Islam

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