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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Contemporary forms of Islamic student activism in Indonesia

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. Claudia Nef-Saluz (doctoral thesis 2013)
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe (August 2007 – August 2008; August 2009 – November 2011); Fellowships for prospective researchers from the Swiss National Foundation (2008–2009)
Project duration: August 2007 – November 2011
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; Prof. Dr. Heinzpeter Znoj, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern; Prof. Dr. Martin van Bruinessen, Chair for the Comparative Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies der Universität Utrecht
Research Field: Entangled Histories

Students of JARIK (Campus Islamic Networking) demonstrating for religious freedom and against the ban of Ahmadiyah in Yogyakarta


The aim of this dissertation project is to delineate the heterogeneity of discourses and practices of Islam in Indonesia. This increasing internal differentiation will be empirically studied by focussing on Islamic student activism in the university town of Yogyakarta, which is a good barometer of political tensions in the country. This PhD project proposes to analyse the patterns of recruitment, belonging and identification of students to organisations representing different strands of Islam in order to understand the pluralisation of religious discourses, representations and practices among the younger generation. Since the mid 1990s processes of transnationalisation constitute an increasingly new dimension of this plurality and affect its forms of public expression as symbols, goods, images and ideologies travel rapidly across the globe. New technology and media use also allow students to participate in cross-border political alliances around globalized conflicts and to transnationalize local ones. Thus transnationalisation of Islam leads not to a homogenisation but to a greater local differentiation as different strands selectively appropriate and mix a variety of transnational currents with local traditions. These hybrid mixes also seem to be in tension with the nationalist designs of the state that seeks to mould religious identities through its policy of obligatory religious education and a citizenship regime that inscribes membership in clearly defined monolithic religious communities. This is thus a promising context in which to empirically explore different configurations of Islamic modernity and their varied entanglements with local and translocal currents as these play out in Southeast Asia.

Research Summary (PDF, 137 KB)