Paper on Sacred Wells and Shopping Malls in Indonesia, by Stephen Headley

Of Sacred Wells and Shopping Malls:

Glimpses of the Reconstruction of Social Confidence

 in Solo after Soeharto

Stephen C. Headley (Erasme, CNRS, Paris)

“L’individu est une valeur, ou plutôt fait partie d’une configuration des valeurs sui generis.”

[Louis Dumont 1979:23]

You can download the full text by clicking here: Reconstruction of Social Confidence Wells & Malls

It will be many years before historians, economists and other social scientists have a clear perspective on the changes wrought in Indonesia by the fall of General Soeharto’s regime in 1998. Javanese wayang, a highly “traditional” art form might be expected to evolve more slowly than other social indicators, artistic or otherwise, in reaction to such political upheaval. However, the very nature of wayang theatre, the nature of any living “tradition”, is indeed to evolve within its own structures. For once “tradition” becomes a completely static and immovable entity, it is in textbooks and museums, but not in the streets in tense times of rapid social change. Within wayang, the purification, or ruwatan genre, occupies a receptive place for change. For how can one claim to purify unless one heals today’s ills? The agency of wayang during exorcisms addresses the current needs of the local populace, but how does it do so? More specifically how can it address such all-encompassing social crises as the fall of the New Order regime?

The fall of General Soeharto created many new social currents in the later half of 1998 and during 1999. The social reconstruction of confidence, required for society to go on, took many forms. Local neighborhood committees in the town of Surakarta, as in many other places, were mobilised to protect the neighbourhoods (kampung) at night and help the poorest to get by through aid in kind and money[1]. The major Muslim movements increased their stress on religious tolerance and could be called upon to protect churches threatened with being burned down.[2] After the fall of Soeharto in May 1998, the status of the state was in question due to the daily lack of order and confidence. For instance, no one in Solo believed that the police were really police, just cowards and profiteers. The police, knowing they had lost their authority, kept a low profile. During the course of thirty lengthy interviews with Solonese of all walks of life in January and February, 1999, I heard described various types of efforts at the social reconstruction of confidence that had occured after May 1998: new labour unions, aid associations (panguyuban), NGO legal aid networks, and peddlers’ cooperatives.

Eldar Braten[3] has asked what relationship exists in Java between contemporary experience and cultural representation. Against the backdrop of rapid social change, we are asking how did wayang react? More precisely, one month or six months after the events of May ’98, did cultural representations in Solo reflect public experience? Many things changed in the Javanese way of being in the world in 1998-99. Obviously that had to be true on a personal level, but were there changes on the social plane as well?

Collective experience had always been reflected in ritual and theatrical discourse. In the purification rites I studied between 1983-1993[4], the dhalang always included in his monologues and dialogues references to the persons purified and their place of habitation, family background etc. The 1996 ecologically-oriented, “installation-art” earth purifications (ruwatan bumi) as well as the farcical imitations by live actors of political figures resonated with the concerns surrounding current events[5]. Commenting on the recent debacle of Soeharto, Ward Keeler (ch.?:23) stressed that not only the Javanese dhalang, but also his sponsors and fans would be likely to take wayang in new directions in the coming years. Yet during second half of 1998 theatre often illustrated a tendency which Hatley[6] describes:

“If performances of traditional theatre genre …celebrate the world as it is, modern theatre typically interrogates and problematises from a distance.”

Indeed, contesting the Soeharto regime had not been a major feature of traditional Javanese theatre, but of other more innovative theatrical genres. But once the regime fell, wayang, with its epic metaphors and tropes, set to work on the new situation, that is to say post-Soeharto Indonesia.

What it meant to be Solonese was being reviewed in the wake of the “war”, as the inhabitants often called the chaos that had devastated their town. The issue of who organised the riots has never really been clarified, but it was clear that the impoverished population had not been hard to provoke, and that outside criminal elements had been employed by elements in the army “loyal” to Soeharto to destroy the city. This pattern was avoided in extremis in Yogyakarta at the same period by a remarkable alliance of the court, the population and the universities.

During the night of 6 February 1999 I attended a purification (ruwatan) of a Solonese shopping plaza, followed by the performance of the wayang Pandhawa Timbul (the Appearance of the Pandava) by Ki Dhalang Manteb Sudarsono. That evening ritual is compared with the offering of a wayang play,Wahyu Kamulyan (The Revelation of Glory) by the dhalang Ki Warseno Slenk at another purification ritual, this time at the well of Mbah Meyek in the nearby neighbourhood of Bibis Kulon[7]. The latter took place on 11 June 1998, after having been delayed a month by the May riots in Solo and the collapse of the Soeharto regime.

During a shadow puppet theatre, the dialogue (ginem) between a wizen old mother (Cangik) and her plump and slow daughter (Limbuk) deal with many topical issues. The final chapter of Jan Mrazek’s dissertation[8] has demonstrated the importance of these limbukan exchanges for understanding the place of wayang theatre in the social debates of the late 1990’s. Day’s discussion here(ch.?) of the  treatment of hybrid identities in East Java wayang also encouraged me to scrutinise the ritual accompanying the play and the dialogues of Limbuk and Cangik in these two Solonese wayang performances for glimpses of the social reconstruction of confidence in central Java.

Both theatrical events described below contained a distinct ritual dimension. They also both provided ample opportunity for the dhalang to comment on events. The village well purification was an annual event that never before had occured in such an atmosphere coloured as it was by the recent riots. When village well purification was celebrated the city was still a series of burnt out ruins. The burnt-out shopping mall purification which took place eight months later occured next to a cleaned up, but not rebuilt building. The Bètèng plaza purification was a direct result of the rioting which took place in Solo seven days before Soeharto’s fall. The parallel dimensions in the two performances, one in an urban village and another in a shopping mall just north-east of the main Solo palace, across the street from the eighteenth-century Dutch fort, suggested that a comparison should include at least two levels, the ritual and dialogic. The longed-necked, scrawny peasant Cangik and her plump indecisive daughter Limbuk could not ignore the recent events which encroached massively on every aspect of Solonese life. I have chosen to present the village purification after the shopping mall purification. The village ruwatan presented neighbourhood bonds and social linkage with home which the “non-lieu” of a shopping mall can’t claim to possess. On the other hand, the shopping mall ritual united the Bètèng plaza merchants with mutual economic interests far greater than that those between the villagers of Bibis Kulon. How purification (ruwatan), the communal ritual meal (slametan) and wayang theatre relate aspects social morphology and facilitate the exchange of values will be taken up in the conclusion.


[1]– Hari Mulyadi, Soedarmono and a team of researchers belonging to the Lembaga Pengembangan Teknologi Pedasan (LPTP) produced in 1999 a 659 page book entitled, Runtuhnya Kekuasaan “Kraton Alit” (Studi Radikalisasi Social “Wong Solo” dan Kerusuhan Mei 1989 di Surakarta) [The Collapse of the Reign of the “Small Palace”. A Study of the Social Radicalisation of the Solonese populace and the Riots of May 1998 in Surakarta.] The title does not give justice to the breadth of economic, social and political analysis. It is as if after more than thirty years of stultifying demagogy, the social lens of the Solonese suddenly focused on the realities that previously had been taboo and social scientists suddenly saw their whole history, and not just the last thirty years, brought into focus. The urban history and the ethnic relations that were weaved into that history, just as the radicalisation of the population, are seen in the persepctive of the whole twentieth century political and economic developments. The state violence against citizenry, and the clashes between social classes against, are not ignored. As many social facets of the aftermath as possible were taken into consideration: from the “national” purification ritual (ruwatan) held by the Brayat Ageng Masyarakat Surakarta on the 23rd of July 1998 (1999:553-555) to the numerous  ” marché aux puces” (pasar klitikan) that grew up after the looting of the city. This attempt of a description of the total social fact  in a regional, here urban, monograph is especially welcome.

[2]– Interview with the head (ketua) of the Solo branch of the Nadhatul Ulama (2 February, 1999), H. M. Dian Haji. Few foreign observers, reading about the provoked and unprovoked outbreak of inter ethnic and religious violence in Indonesiain 1998 -99, have been able to integrate into their  vision, an Indonesia seeking better relations between Christians and Muslims. Robert Hefner’s Civil Islam (Princeton University Press, Princeton,2000)is an important exception to this failure.

[3]– Eldar Braten “Recapturing “Java”: a call for a Javanese Anthropology”. unpublished ms. pp, .9-10.

[4]– Cf. S. C. Headley, Cosmogeny and Exorcism in a Javanese Genesis. The Spilt Seed, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000.

[5]– Cf. The Surabaya Post April 6th. 1998 article describes a provisional schedule of performances including “seni instali”, performance art, ketoprak, comedies, danse theatre (jatilan), pantomine, and shaddow puppet theatre. The program began on Idul Adha (7 April 1999) and apparently only borrowed the term ruwatan to baptise ther sereis of assoicated performances. In the same vein an author claimed (Suara Merdeka 6 April 1998) for his exorcistic qualitiesSastra Tegalan. The idea that one needs to purify the kingdom (or nation) during times of disorder is a very old one already present in the Panji corpus some four hundred years ago.

[6]–  Barbara Hatley, “Cultural Expression and social transformation in Indonesia” p. 268 in  Arief Budiman, Barbara Hatley and Damien Kingsbury, Reformasi. Crisis and change in Indonesia. Monash Asia Institute, Clayton, Australia 1999.

[7]– My understanding of the event in the village of Bibis Kulon is entirely second-hand and based on Sarwanto’s master’s thesis ( tesis S-2), Wayang Kulit Purwa Dalam Upacara Bersih Desa di Bibis Kulon, Surakarta. Gadjah Mada University,1999. This study included a transcription of the play.

[8]– reference   ???

Paper on Secularization of religion in Indonesia, by Stephen Headley

Secularization of religion in Indonesia:

From Custom to Pancasila and back to adat

Stephen C. Headley (CNRS)

[Version 3 Nov., 2008]

A full version of this paper can be downloaded here: From Custom to Pancasila and back to adat _Naples

Introduction: Why would anyone want to promote or accept a move to normalization of religion? Why are village rituals considered superstition while Islam is not? What is dangerous about such cultic diversity?

These are the basic questions which we are asking in this paper. After independence in 1949, the standardization of religion in the Republic of Indonesia was animated by a preoccupation with “unity in diversity”. All citizens were to be monotheists, for monotheism reflected more perfectly the unity of the new republic than did the great variety of cosmologies deployed in the animistic cults. Initially the legal term secularization in European countries (i.e., England and France circa 1600-1800) meant confiscations of church property. Only later in sociology of religion did the word secularization come to designate lesser attendance to church services. It also involved a deep shift in the epistemological framework. It redefined what it meant to be a person (Milbank, 1990). Anthropology in societies where religion and the state are separate is very different than an anthropology where the rulers and the religion agree about man’s destiny. This means that in each distinct cultural secularization will take a different form depending on the anthropology conveyed by its historically dominant religion expression. For example, the French republic has no cosmology referring to heaven and earth; its genealogical amnesia concerning the Christian origins of the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms is deliberate for, the universality of the values of the republic were to liberate its citizens from public obedience to Catholicism. Man, having become the measure of all things, permits humanism to gradually dominate the traditional cathedral-centered polis where a partially religious hierarchy of values had once been enthroned. Henceforth the person was increasingly defined as  citizen of the republic. Outside of Western Europe, even in Eastern Europe where papo-caesarism was unknown, this inversion never took place (cf. G. Dagron, Empereur et prêtre, 1996).

What sort of “secular” state is the Indonesian Republic with its five recognized religions, yet where Islam overshadows all others (Irfan Ahmad 2006)? In any case it is not unique as the institution of a similar system in the Russian Federation during the 1990’s shows us.  More specifically this took the form of a shift: monotheism à la Pancasila and not Islam would be the basis of citizenship. Naturally, Islam seems the common denominator to many inhabitants of the archipelago. The anti-colonial, nationalist movement had already shown that ethnic labels could be removed from groups when they worked towards “unity in diversity”. A disenchanted cosmology provides a secular (i.e., this century) space where nature can be manipulated. In the past, Indonesians wouldn’t sell their rice because it was a gift from the goddess Sri. In the twentieth century this was understood to make for poor citizens (Asad 2003:27). The domestication of “religions” to the norms of a republican social morphology required secularizing those horizons of transcendence which risked to contradict the pretensions of the new republic to being the greater “whole”. Cultural diversity, too many cults and customs with their strong public norms and values, challenged the secular structure of the republic which proposes citizenship instead of tribal collective identities.

Only Islam was in a position to oppose such a ground shift, such a politicizing of the vision of what it meant to be a person, for only Islam, having organized itself into political parties in the first quarter of the twentieth century, was able to operate on the level of statehood. For more than ten years, starting in 1949, S.W. Kartosuwirjo’s regional rebellion Darul Islam challenged the new republic as would-be founders of an Islamic state appeared. Since the suppression of the Darul Islam, other models of re-establishments of Islamic states have been imported from abroad, such as Hizbut Tahrir[1]. Radical groups such as the Solonese branch of this movement give gentle titles to their public meetings in order to obtain permission to hold them. They implicitly recognize that nowadays encouraging violence is frowned upon. In 1945, Muslim demands that shariah be obligatory for all Muslims was not incorporated into the constitution. The so-called Jakarta charter was premised on the belief  that acculturations represented by regional custom or adat-based religion presented an unwanted imbeddedness, i.e. to a local, insular Islam. For different reasons Muslims agreed about this latter diversity and from 1949 till 1955 the insistence on this piagam Jakarta was abandoned. Once the Soeharto regime came to power (1967+), military-imposed unity was strengthened, and openly declared as the “raison d’État”, and eventually was the pretext for suspension of modern legal procedures that destabilized local adat. Can regional custom be eliminated by a republic in the name of the rule of law, by claiming it does not qualify as religion? Successive Indonesian governments and Islam have seen society through such a prism of uniformity. For Islam, Allah’s sovereignty is reflected in the mirror of mosque-based prayer, while for the republican government political control and surveillance were activities which the Javanese, and their pre-eminent kingdoms, placed above the laws of God. Such in brief is the Indonesian republic’s vision of secularization until recently.

This paper considers the post Reformasi (1998+) demand for an application of shariah to all Muslims. Such a move could neutralize the diversity of local adat which implicitly had been admitted by normal Pancasila “plurality”[2]. This chapter is less a political or ethnographic study than a general reflection on Javanese adat. My stepping off point is the following: Javanese culture presupposes that differences create spaces for communication. Political strategies for accumulating identity hinders the creation of such spaces. When difference is treated as division, as in the Soeharto period (1967-98) the relations that bridge the differences are destroyed. The “other” becomes a danger and the different parties can be easily instrumentalized. Difference is “good” as long as the cultural and religious groups have kept each other in focus. For that to be so, above and beyond their differences, some common “higher” values must motivate them to remain in contact. Following Louis Dumont, I have called this “encompassment”[3], a concept he used in his description of the articulation beyond the diversity of the Indian castes.

Adat as Javanese village custom was traditionally “encompassed” by, but not separated, from the law of the palace. Especially in settling village disputes over land tenure, the authority of the founding fathers and spirits of the village was expressed in local cults and adjucations. Adat was an indigenous anthropology, a religious and administrative synthesis for local use. It was rendered redundant by the arrival of direct colonial administration. I am deliberately opposing state-sponsored Pancasila management to spontaneous religious praxis, because I consider that Soeharto’s approach to this normalization imposes it as a norm, not so much of religion, as of secularization. This included the obligatory study of the Ordre Baru’s own version of Pancasila ideology[4], the substitution of New Order sovereignty above and beyond Allah. The political regime protected, “umbrella”-ed (dipayungaké) and overshadowed the more traditional, “normal” wholeness of the Godhead, the tauhid of Allah. Endemic local insecurity in the reformasi period encouraged the re-emergence of older notions of sociability which permitted the creation of local micro-holisms, each cultural area possessing its own character[5]. Sometimes, as on the north coast of Java, the outbreaks were orchestrated by outside dhalang (manipulators) but in southern Borneo or central Celebes, the results of tensions resulting from immigration (so called “transmigrasi”) had produced much deeper roots of local conflict[6]. The return to local adat-based administration sometimes reduced the levels of intolerance provoked by the top-to-bottom Pancasila approaches to local religious diversity. To conceptualize the diversity of adat revivals outside of Java, we will first bring in the most recent data collected on this topic.


[1] – In Arabic Hizb ut-Tahrir, this “Party of Liberation” boasts itself to be the vanguard of the Sunni. Its aim is to join all Muslim states into a caliphate ruled by an elected caliph. Its founder, Taqiuddin al-Nabahani, a court judge (qadi) from Haifa, began his movement in 1953; it is now present in some forty countries, with some one million adherents, and is especially active in Western Europe. Cf. Matringe, Denis, 2005.

[2] – I am referring to Pancasila’s as propagated under Soeharto’s New Order. I am not referring to 2006 Pancasila’s re-packaging as the indispensable national foundation (dasar negara) of the republic by such distinguished figures as Azyumardi Azra which is dealt with in Francois Raillon’s paper.

[3] – Cf. Louis Dumont, Essais sur l’individualisme. Une perspective anthropologique sur l’idéologie moderne. Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1983.

[4] – On the debates between 1945 and 1978 on the content and way in which Pancasila should be studied cf. Marcel Bonneff, et al, Pantjasila, trente années de débats politiques en Indonésie. Paris, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1980.

[5] – Among the new approaches to kinship, the term sociability is used in different ways. Cf. Janet Carsten (ed.), Cultures of Relatedness. New Approaches to the Study of Kinship. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000.

[6] – Over the last few years, inter-religious violence has been provoked in Tasikmalaya (Institut Studi Arus Informasi, 1998), Situbondo (in east Java, Hariyanto 1997), southern Borneo (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia, 1997); Aceh, Maluku and Riau (Tim Peneliti LIPI, 2001).

Secularization and Orthodoxy in Contemporary Russia, by Kathy Rousselet

Secularization and Orthodoxy in Contemporary Russia

Research Question 42

By Kathy Rousselet

CERI-Sciences Po

2013

The full version can be downloaded here: Secularization and Orthodoxy in Russia

Abstract

“Due to the growing importance of religion in post-Soviet Russia and the prevalent place of the Orthodox Church in Russian politics, certain analysts have argued that Russia is undergoing a process of desecularization today.While this phenomenon is also occurring in other parts of the world, Russia is different from these cases—notably because of its sociopolitical history and its particular religious context. Instead of opposing this trend towarddesecularization to the earlier trend toward secularization at the time of the Soviet Union, the emphasis is put on the continuity of governemental practices. Religion today has become an essential part of a mode of governingthat was made possible through a form of identity-building reinvented by the elites. This mode of governing reflects to a certain extent the continuity of the Soviet mode of governing characterized by a non pluralist ideology.”

Paper: Being a “martyr” (syahîd) in Java today, by Stephen Headley

Being a « martyr” [syahîd] in Java today: a deformation of sacrifice?

Stephen C. Headley (CNRS, EPHE)

Colloque “Martyr(e) et suicide dans l’islam contemporain »

(Paris 6-7 mars 2006, MSH : CNRS, EHESS)

The complete article can be downloaded here: Being a martyr in Java

1 . Introduction.

In central Java on the southern edge of the town of Surakarta (Solo) there in the hamlet of Ngruki is Pondok Pseantren (Koranic school) of Abu Bakar Ba’ashir, the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah movement, responsible for the four terrorist bombings in Indonesia since 2002. This movement says these bombers are syahîd (martyrs in Arabic and Indonesian). Although in past centuries this term syahîd was used in Malacca, southern Celebes,  Aceh and even in Bali , none of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Javanese anti-colonial holy wars raised in the name of sharia  ever used the term syahîd to describe their fallen warriors . Thus Javanese Islam presents an anomaly . Does the presence in central Java of the Jemaah Islamiyah “benefiting” from the support of al-Quaeda, in anyway explain this important innovation, for instance by the inevitable fragmentation of the umma under the influence of these extremists. If one emerges from the virtual representation of Java in the media, this new use of  the word martyr remains as marginal as ever in Java and there are cultural reasons for this. Such is the position this paper defends.

Outside of one short visit  in 2003 to al-Munir, the Ba’ashir’s madrasah – pesantèn, I had little occasion and even less desire to speak to the young students there. My reticence was  principled. I did not want to give them more important than the media had already managed to do. A subject like the legitimacy of naming a suicide bomber a martyr is ambiguous and is better treated by cultural history and Islamic jurisprudence than with one off interviews with immature students. In a region as exocentric as Indonesia to the historical centres of the Islamic world, comparison must be made not only with the Middle East, but also within Indonesia itself given its demographic importance. Despite formal prohibitions against such terrorist violence by the local Muslim authorities, the local differences in the use of the terms martyr prove to be of first importance. The use of the term in the nineteen-sixties by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Langka, or the Buddhist monks in South Vietnam also show that in each society a certain political “claustrophobia” gives the term martyr its new semantic content.

I am not arguing that we ignore the predicament of the extremists only that anthropological observation of contemporary politicised events is haphazard at best. When an author as competent as Robert Hefner published his book, Civil Islam. Muslims and Democritasation in Indonesia (2000) less than two years after Soeharto’s dictatorship’s collapse, it was the bearer of an immense hope, immediately shattered by the failure of the reformasi movement during the following two years. Rather than exploring these troubled political waters, I believe anthropologists are better equipped to ask questions such as whether Javanese values today are still structured by its socio-cosmology. In other words is Java then a post-traditional society or a quasi holistic one or even a pseudo-holism?

To permit us answer this question, we will focus on the role of sacrifice in the accomplishment of martyrdom. How and what does martyrdom purify? In Java the value of purification historically precedes and encompasses that of sacrifice for the former is both individual and social. Individual by its agent and social by the benefits is brings.

The complete article can be downloaded here: Being a martyr in Java

Secularization without secularism in Pakistan, by Christophe Jaffrelot

Secularization without secularism in Pakistan, by Christophe Jaffrelot

Research Question 41

By Christophe Jaffrelot

CERI-Sciences Po

2012

The full version can be downloaded here: Secularization without secularism in Pakistan

Abstract

Pakistan was created in 1947 by leaders of the Muslim minority of the British Raj in order to give them a separate state. Islam was defined by its founder, Jinnah, in the frame of his “two-nation theory,” as an identity marker (cultural and territorial). His ideology, therefore, contributed to an original form of secularization, a form that is not taken into account by Charles Taylor in his theory of secularization – that the present text intends to test and supplement. This trajectory of secularization went on a par with a certain form of secularism which, this time, complies with Taylor’s definition. As a result, the first two Constitutions of Pakistan did not define Islam as an official religion and recognized important rights to the minorities. However, Jinnah’s approach was not shared by the Ulema and the fundamentalist leaders, who were in favor of an islamization policy. The pressures they exerted on the political system made an impact in the 1970s, when Z.A. Bhutto was instrumentalizing Islam. Zia’s islamization policy made an even bigger impact on the education system, the judicial system and the fiscal system, at the expense of the minority rights. But Zia pursued a strategy of statization of Islam that had been initiated by Jinnah and Ayub Khan on behalf of different ideologies, which is one more illustration of the existence of an additional form of secularization that has been neglected by Taylor.

Paper: “Unfinished” Secularization in Russia, Indonesia and India, by Stephen Headley

“Unfinished” Secularization meets traditional

hierarchies of values in Russia, Indonesia and India

Stephen C. Headley

(Unpublished conference paper, latest version 15 March 2013)

You can download the whole paper at the bottom of this page.

“Il n’existe au monde qu’un seul litige, celui de savoir si c’est le tout ou le particulier qui prédomine. » (F. Hölderlin, Oeuvres, Pléiades, Gallimard 1967 : 996) In his Essais de Sociologie (1983), Louis Dumont gives this question a profound sociological turn through his analysis of the rise of  “pseudo-holisms” in the context of fascism and communism. Thirty years later, extreme economic changes and globalization have further eroded local customs and unfinished secularization has multiplied the appearance of pseudo-holisms.

What role can this concept play in comparative studies of secularization? Case by case comparisons are very time consuming but provide solid empirical data on which to enlarge this theoretical concept. This paper is a methodological proposition with only two examples.

1) An overview of secularization processes

At the beginning of the twentieth century, structural societal differentiation at work in non-European countries was driven by the increasingly contested hegemony and homogenizing potential of modernity. The pretensions of the earlier cosmologically-ordered social regimes were gradually being replaced by an ethic of autonomous agency. “Modern” authenticity began replacing the fetters of “tradition”, but at the end of the twentieth century it was clear that this individualism has not fully displaced early collective representations. Unfinished secularization left societies hanging; juxtaposed cosmologies provided little belonging and less transcendence. It became clear that any partial acceptance of modernity[1] led to continual redefining and reconstructions of cultural and political programs. This breakdown of traditional legitimacies led to the appearance of fundamentalism, and reinventions of damaged, endangered traditions. Ethnic cleansing and other forms of protest appeared in these artificial efforts to revive or reconstruct threatened or new social centers and pivots on the basis of an earlier consensus.

The internal antinomies of such hybrid cultural communities animated by critical political discourses inhibited multiple cosmologies from creating pluralism where a common good could emerge[2]. Unfinished secularization lays bare the ambiguous place of “the Good” in the articulation of a social morphology. The incoherence between their respective hierarchies has forced partial rationalities and values into separate “pseudo-holisms” (Louis Dumont, 1983) among which politicians pretended one was the totality. This reflects the fluctuation of modernity between a certain cultural autonomy and its need (via la raison de l’état) for total control of that freedom which they cannot guarantee. The dynamics of media and migration straddles, encloses, both the nation-states practicing procedural (so-called “democratic”) legitimization and those practicing substantive forms of ideological and religious legitimization. The impossibility of finding a consensual accountability between “civil” society and the state reflects the confusion between secular social relations and “universal” would-be primordial values.

In the first half of the twentieth century in Europe the initial alternatives to modernity were fascism and communism. In the course of this century the Soviet Union, and later Communist China, attempted utopian and eschatological social programs, but finally without the means to make them take root except through extraordinary violence.  Finally, both proved themselves not universal ideologies, but to broaden Dumont’s terminology, “pseudo-holisms”. In a word equality and hierarchy were obliged to compete. This phenomenon spread; collective identities of utopian Muslim regimes exhibited increasing tensions. Even French laicité struggling to maintain its vaunted neutrality, was challenged. A weakening of the centrality of the nation states at the end of the twentieth century was accompanied the demographic diasporas created by almost total, worldwide, mobility which produced so-called “subdued” ethnic, local, regional and transnational identities. These have, or are in the process of redefining citizenship, and the laws and rights of their respective nation-states. Citizens have been creating “foreign” alliances through WEB-generated networking that put pressure on local political processes.

Appropriating modernity on one’s own (non-Western) terms favored ideologies of political correctness which viewed from the outside seemed to create untenable new totalities. According to S. Eisenstadt[3], the tensions between authentic indigenous and “Western” reflects that no way has yet been found to unravel the tensions that modernity creates. Sharing spaces, i.e. pluralism in a scene so ideologically charged, means that the utopia of modernity is an ever vanishing horizon whose disillusioned adherents veer off into new-found pseudo-holisms. Even here, this questioning of the limits of modernity is in itself a modern move. Such artificiality and fundamentalism are trapped in the very modernity they sought to escape. To understand the on-going processes of counter-secularization, the only move left to us is to study comparatively different experiences of secularization. This modest essay is meant to be a contribution to such an anthropology.

The issue of what is secularization needs clarification[4]. This process is a project and has relevance only vis-à-vis a given cultural context. Separation of “religion and state” means very different things in different cultures because their respective values are so differently articulated. Taken out of its European context, secularism can become an ideological tool of cultural destruction[5]. Secularism is not a good in itself although the features of its justification (i.e. Charles Taylor’s “over-lapping consensus”) and the bases of its adoption tell us about “good” as understood in the societies from which the promoters of secularization came. In fact it has rarely created this over lapping consensus when exported.

In the 2012 Dumont Centenary conference, Joel Robbins forcefully proposed that in each cultural area, one must clarify the cultural differences that structure different secularizations in order to escape the dead-end of those social scientists whose only heuristic tool to understand society are explanations of relations of power. To pursue Louis Dumont’s intellectual legacy and study secularization, we need to deploy a comparative anthropology of morality, of the cultural capital of the “Good’s” place in the articulation of a social morphology[6]. Empirical observations of hierarchies of values should produce scenarios which should contribute to the anthropology of morality[7].

Where religious traditions have been dilapidated, the transmission of spiritual authority is diluted through a fragmentation of rapidly accessible charisma. These revivals are presented as authenticity and such fundamentalism is now found globally in every belief system. If such a general description of fundamentalism is widely accepted today, what is more difficult is to describe in detail, chronologically, its development in a given country, and to compare it with secularization as found in the hybrid fabrics of other non-European societies[8].


[1] Modernity, for Louis Dumont (1983), is an ideology characterized by contemporary individualism and incompatible with holism which subordinates the individual in a hierarchy which encompasses its opposite through an internal distinction of identity. The relations of persons to others are higher valued than that of human to objects of nature. In the context of globalization, Arjun Apadurai (1996: 3-4) stresses modern subjectivity as a work of imagination (a collective social fact), where the cultural dimensions of globalization constructs  imagined selves and imagined worlds that subvert earlier narratives. “…because of the rapid way in which they move through daily routines, electronic media provide resources for self-imagining as an everyday social project.”

[2] – In this paper I will be considering Indonesia and India and not trying to describe Europe where this took place much earlier. Western Europe entered the process of secularization slowly enough to develop political and religious theories of pluralism, economic explanations of industrialization and more recently analyses of globalization. Cf. René Rémond, Religion et Société en Europe. La secularisation aux XIXè et XXè siècle, 1789-200O,  1998. More recently, secularization processes have not encouraged pluralism but rather tried to prevent religion norms from becoming public ones.

[3] This introduction was inspired by reading S.N. Eisenstadt’s essay on multiple modernity’s in the winter issue (2000) of Daedalus.

[4] Cf. Jean-Claude Monod, Sécularisation et laïcité, 2007.

[5] As Aristotle identified it more than two thousand years ago, the “Good”, is a key question in the construction of any polis, hence the need for a analysis of morality. In China secularization was deliberately programmed irrespective to the cultural history, of the Chinese understanding of good. And yet despite the violence the Chinese cultural revolution provoked many of the burned books and leveled temple have reappeared from their Chinese ashes in the last two decades.

[6] As everyone is aware, the ways in which a religious good or value is conceptualized have very local genealogies, usually holistic in outreach while the European notion of religious freedom has often become unmoored from their societies of origin as it was be exported under the name of secularization to recently decolonized states.

[7] – Any analysis of secularization is not purely academic as both of the two societies studied here, India (1946+) and Indonesia (1965+), have recently suffered pogroms between communities, nominally for religious reasons.

[8] – For instance the purification of Indonesian Islam from its local customs and accretions (especially Javanism) led to a fundamentalism through the Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama movements described in section two below, but these were both conservative and modern reformations of Indonesian Islam. In fact conservatism and modernity go quite well hand in hand. In India’s central states, the appearance of Hindutva, a fundamentalist Hindu cultural and political movement in the 1970’s, prevented the India from pursuing its secular course, as communalism concocted from of cultural and political boundaries destroyed the collective identities that Gandhi had strived to reinforce.

You can download and read the whole paper here: Secularization 2013