Emmy Noether Group – The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia
Following the popular waves of Islamic resurgence, bureaucracies have become influential societal actors in the religious field in Southeast Asia, particularly in countries where Muslim populations play a significant political role. The governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore have in diverse ways empowered ‘administrative’ bodies to guide Islamic discourse and regulate matters of religion and morality in the public sphere. Although their approaches and spheres of influence differ widely, each government tries to influence the direction Islamic discourse is taking in their territories through the bureaucratic imposition of categorical schemes in the name Islam and the nation-state.
The Research Group investigates the bureaucratization of Islam and its socio-legal dimensions from an anthropological perspective, with a particular focus on the state's exercise of ‘classificatory power’ and its actual workings on the micro-level. The project argues that the bureaucratization of Islam far transcends its organizational boundaries. Focusing on five case studies, the group will scrutinize how the transformation of Islam into the codes and procedures of bureaucracy has consequences that penetrate deeply into public discourse and the everyday lives of various social actors. The project also asks how social actors engage with bureaucratic practices, as the state’s classificatory power is co-produced and contested in society in uncertain and unpredictable ways. The project treats the bureaucratization of Islam not just descriptively as an empirical fact, but as a larger social phenomenon to be theorized in comparative perspective. Grounded in long-term fieldwork, focusing on actors' perspectives and positioned in anthropological debates, the project intends to generate a new anthropological understanding of contemporary Islam in the context of state power in Southeast Asia, with implications beyond the region.
Individual PhD projects
Bureaucratization of Islam in a Christian-Majority State: An Ethnography of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz is conducting an ethnography of the ‘everyday political economy’ of a Muslim bureaucracy in the Philippines in order to examine how the state carries out its discourse on and engages with Islam and Muslims. Following a historical contextualization of the bureaucratization of Muslim affairs, it investigates how individuals and groups within the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) negotiate the control, distribution, and use of valuable material and non-material resources and to achieve desired goals.
The Bureaucratization of Zakat: An Ethnography of the Culture of Giving in Malaysia
Timea Greta Biro’s project ethnographically explores the practice of zakat (Islamic alms) in Malaysia. Once a matter of personal ritual and choice, in contemporary Malaysia zakat has increasingly become a tool of social engineering, classification, and education in the hands of the state-controlled religious bureaucracies. The project focuses on the implications the various zakat-related discourses (as a religious tax, a charitable act, a tool of economic development, an act of individual worship) have for the lives of those who claim a right to it (asnaf), and how they actively position themselves in their interactions with zakat institutions.
The Emmy Noether Program (DFG)
The Emmy Noether Program is open to researchers from all academic disciplines. The German Research Foundation (DFG) stresses that an excellent scientific track record and outstanding publications in high ranking international specialist journals are key qualifications. Applicants must also have worked abroad for at least 12 months during either their Ph.D.s or postdocs.
Emmy Noether Guest Lecture Series 2017
Workshop: "Conceptualizing The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia: Anthropological and Transdisciplinary Perspectives" (7-8 September 2017)