Men's politics, women's piety: The gendered asymmetry of Indonesia's new public Islams

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The importance of embodied religious practice to public Islam in Indonesia is easily underrated. This article undertakes an empirical examination of two domains of public Islam in Indonesia: women's piety and formal Islamic party politics. Based on research with women's groups in West Java, the author argues that Islamic party politics rely upon fragmentation resulting from different understandings of embodied practices, while the consensus supporting women's piety requires suppression of this fragmentation. Political actors locate themselves in a male-dominated political sphere by aligning within a matrix of different meanings of practices. Yet the national consensus that sustains support for the majelis taklim (women's study groups) encourages an undifferentiated approach to practice, in which motherhood metaphors serve as the basis for the public legitimacy of women's pious practice. However, in actual practice, many women, notably Muslim feminists, differentiate practices, thereby bringing them into the field of public contest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-149
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • embodiment and public spheres
  • Indonesian Islam
  • majelis taklim
  • public Islam in Indonesia
  • religion and the public sphere
  • women's pious practice

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