AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 11

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Session 11: Politics of Islam

Our Roots, Our Strength: The Jamu Industry, Women's Health and Islam in Contemporary Indonesia
Sarah E. Krier, University of Pittsburgh, USA

This paper explores how discourse surrounding Indonesian herbal indigenous medicine, or jamu, shapes Indonesian Muslim women’s health choices and sexual and gender identities in Indonesia. While jamu is often criticized as “unscientific” and ignored by the formal public health sector, this study reveals how discourse concerning jamu empowers Indonesian Muslim women by inspiring a unique social arena and language of health education that mediates their sexual and reproductive health realities. My study demonstrates that women turn to jamu for their most intimate health needs because, unlike state-supported biomedical campaigns which many women feel are overly aggressive, politicized, and invasive, jamu: (1) is an informal, grassroots, and gendered discourse; (2) is consistent with Indonesian Islamic beliefs and medical systems; and (3) supports a holistic view of women’s health which includes sexuality and pleasure. Understanding how women define efficacy in terms of medicine is fundamental in evaluating their health priorities. Using jamu as a lens through which to examine the interplay of sex, gender relations, medical systems, religion, and politics, this study contributes to anthropological scholarship on the jamu industry; the role of Islam in “health culture”; and the need for religious, sexuality and cultural studies in the construction of public health programs and policies. Research for this paper is based on thirteen months of ethnographic research on the commercial production, distribution, and consumption of jamu in small, medium and large industry contexts on the island of Java.

Political Islam in Malaysia: Official Islamization Movement and Non-Malays’ Response
Ya-Wen Yu, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country; the Malays and other indigenous people comprise about 61% of the population, the Chinese and the Indians constitute around 24% and 7% respectively, and other ethnic groups make up the rest. According to Samuel Huntington, Malaysia is located at the fault lines among Islamic, Chinese, and Hindu civilizations; however, the clash of civilizations seldom happened in Malaysia. Therefore, the author attempts to re-examine Huntington’s argument about the clash of civilization by means of the case study of Malaysia. First, the article briefly reviews the history of Malaysia. Secondly, it explores the causes, the historical development of the Islamic revival movements, and the effects the official Islamization movements in Malaysia. Thirdly, it discusses the concern and response of non-Malays (Chinese and Indian) on the reassertion of Islam in the Malaysia. Finally, the author analyzes the implication from the Malaysia case. The article focuses on the political-cultural implication of Malaysia’s official Islamization. First of all, it explores why, in the 1970s, Islamic movements flourished in Malay society, why Malay people supported it and why the state had to establish the official Islamization movement as a response. Secondly, it examines the relationship between society’s Islamic resurgence, official Islamization movement and Malay nationalism during the process of nation-building in Malaysia. Third, it investigates how the non-Muslim miniority, especially the Chinese, utilized nationalism as the form of the resistance to respond to the official Islamization movement. Last, the article examines the political effect of the interaction of Islamization and counter-Islamization.

Islam, Adat, and the mother-daughter relationship in contemporary Minangkabau society in urban Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia
Mina Elfira, Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia

Islam, Adat, and the mother-daughter relationship in contemporary Minangkabau society in urban Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia By Mina Elfira Using my findings obtained from fieldwork that I undertook in contemporary Minangkabau Society in urban Padang,West Sumatra, Indonesia, I wish to contribute to the discussion on how significant is the contribution of Minangkabau women, as the bearers and holders of Adat (a collective term for Minangkabau laws and customs), to the development of ‘matriliny’ values. Minangkabau is not only well known as the world’s largest matrilineal society but also as one that coexists amongst the mostly Islamic societies within Indonesia. The pluralism of the legal system in West Sumatran Minangkabau society displays this convergence of influences, consisting of Adat law, Islamic law and Indonesian national law. In Minangkabau daily life, quite often the implementation of these legal systems contradicts one another, especially in relation to property and inheritance, and marriage affairs. Through an analysis of interdependent relationships between mothers and daughters this paper will explore women’s agency, the reconstitution of matrilineal systems, and women’s roles as implementers and transmitters of Minangkabau culture and social change in contemporary Minangkabau society. In short, through the exploration of the lived experiences of these women in maintaining relationships, this paper will examine to what extent Minangkabau women have both maintained some of the social privileges previously confirmed by the adat system, and gained some new social advantages in the urban context.

Contestations over Islam in Southeast Asia: Muslims and Global Hegemonic Capitalism
Ermin Sinanovic, International Institute of Islamic Thought, USA

This paper takes a clue from Foucault’s concept of power-knowledge—the fact that knowledge and power are inextricably intertwined and that production of knowledge is not a politically neutral act, i.e. every such act of production necessarily promotes certain power structures over others. My aim is to look into some approaches to Islam in Southeast Asia and how these approaches, by creating sociologies of knowledge regarding Islam in the region, instrumentalize Muslims under the aegis of capitalist and democratic development. My argument is situated within critical theories of International Relations, especially Gramscian hegemonic discourses. The paper looks at the contestations over the meanings of Southeast Asian Islam and the processes in which these contestations take place. I have dubbed these processes as indigenization, Westernization, and Arabization. I am focusing on the ways in which the first two processes, indigenization and Westernization, are made to collude against the Arabization. I am using the expression “made to” consciously, as the collaboration or the collusion of these two processes is not natural or spontaneous, but it is engineered in the process of the production of knowledge, emanating from various academic institutions and NGOs, both in the West and in Southeast Asia. The objective is to marginalize Arabization, leaving only two of these processes as major factors in shaping Islamic knowledge in the region. On a higher level, this project points to epistemological hierarchies, with Western being at the top, followed by the indigenous knowledge, and Arabic (Islamic) at the bottom.

Looking West, Again: Perceptions of Turkey and Turkish secularism among Muslim social actors in Malaysia
Sven A. Schottmann, Monash University, Australia

Political developments in late Ottoman and early republican Turkey aroused great interest among the readers of Malay-language journals and newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s. Turkey – along with the Dutch East Indies, Japan, Egypt and India – is recognized as having exerted a significant degree of influence on the nascent Malay nationalist movement (e.g. Roff 1994 [1967]). Turkey’s socio-cultural and political reforms, at least during their early phases, were followed closely by the Malay-speaking Muslims of Southeast Asia, in particular the reform-minded kaum muda or ‘modernists.’ However, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, a large number of Malaysian Muslim scholars and intellectuals appear to have ceased regarding Turkey as an aspirational model. Even as both Turkey and Malaysia pursued etatist policies with regard to the management of religion, the perceived hostility of the Turkish state towards Islam led many Malaysian Muslims to think of Ankara’s laicism as little more than state-enforced godlessness. This paper, based on interviews conducted with Malaysian ulama, academics, civil servants, journalists, politicians and civil society activists, suggests that the rise of Turkey’s so-called “Muslim Democrats” and their successful fusion of social conservatism with economic and political liberalism have transformed Malaysian perceptions of the Turkish management of religion and modernity.