Emmy Noether Group – The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia
Following the popular waves of Islamic resurgence, religious bureaucracies have become increasingly influential societal and political actors in Southeast Asia. The governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore have in diverse ways empowered 'administrative' bodies to guide Islamic discourse and regulate public morality. Although their national histories, approaches and spheres of influence differ widely, in each of these countries state-actors passionately try to influence the direction Islamic discourse is taking in their territories. Simultaneously, non-state actors try to influence the state's governance of Islam and public morality, resulting in mutual attempts to engage, educate and at times manipulate each other.
The Research Group investigates the bureaucratization of Islam from an anthropological perspective, with a particular focus on the state's attempted exercise of 'classificatory power' and its workings on the micro-level. The project argues that the bureaucratization of Islam transcends its organizational boundaries in multifold ways. Focusing on five case studies, the group scrutinizes how the translation of Islam into the 'languages' (codes, symbols, procedures) of bureaucracy, the nation state, and other powerful registers has consequences that deeply affect public discourse and the everyday lives of various social actors, while bureaucratic schemes of state-ified Islam diffuse into society. The project also asks how social actors actively engage with such bureaucratic schemes, as the state’s classificatory power is necessarily co-produced and contested in society in unpredictable ways. The project treats the bureaucratization of Islam as a social phenomenon to be theorized comparatively, taking into account locally unique dynamics of nationally framed religious meaning-making as well as larger transnational flows and patterns. Grounded in long-term fieldwork and focusing on actors' perspectives, the project generates new anthropological understandings of Islam in the context of state power in (and beyond) Southeast Asia.
Individual PhD projects
The Everyday Political Economy of the Bureaucratization of Islam in the Philippines: An Ethnography of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz's research examines the everyday political economy of the bureaucratization of Islam in Catholic-majority Philippines by undertaking an anthropological study of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) – the agency mandated to administer the affairs of Muslims residing outside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. By examining, in particular, the NCMF's efforts to develop the halal industry as well as Islamic banking and finance and its management of the Hajj pilgrimage, Abdul Aziz asks: How do groups and individuals within the NCMF determine the distribution of material and non-material resources? What happens to 'Islam' and 'Muslims' as they 'go through' the NCMF? By what principles do those in the NCMF organize their social life, and when, how, and why do they conflict or collaborate?
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-giving) as an instrument of religiously framed social engineering in three Malaysian states. By examining the delivery of training events, 'counselling', and 'rehabilitation' activities implemented or financed by state-controlled zakat bureaucracies, she investigates how asnaf – the recipients of zakat – and zakat institutions interact and negotiate regulations of giving and receiving. She also addresses questions related to the nature and outcomes of such 'asnaf development' initiatives, with a particular focus on the transgender community. Looking through the lens of zakat, Biro's project addresses broader issues of social classification and public education at the blurry intersections of bureaucracy and society in Malaysia.
Budaya Sensor Mandiri: Film Censorship in Contemporary Indonesia
Rosalia Engchuan's project analyses the dynamic social processes of film censorship as contestations over the notion of 'appropriate' sexuality. Her research focuses in particular on the role of discourses on morality – often based on an amalgamation of religiously framed and increasingly nationalistic arguments – in film censorship. Conceptualizing censorship as not merely negotiated but actively co-produced by a network of actors, she examines state attempts to administer the film industry, filmmakers' social practices, the trajectories of films, and the negotiations related to diverse forms of censorship throughout the various stages of film production and exhibition. Her analysis is based on ethnographic research with government bodies and people involved in the many facets of film production.
The Emmy Noether Program (DFG)
The Emmy Noether Program provides early career researchers with the opportunity to rapidly qualify for a leading position in science and research or for a university teaching career. IT is open to researchers from all academic disciplines.
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)
Workshop: "Social Categorization and Religiously Framed State-Making in Southeast Asia" (4-5 June 2018)