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
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 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)