Panel 2 – Religiosities

Panel 2 – Religiosities–Order & Disorder, between Immanent Life Forces & Transcendental Religions 

The political management and public perception of the COVID-19 pandemic affect the way social relationships and human and non-human interactions are conceived and implemented. For instance, lockdown measures reconfigure networks of community solidarity; they enhance the visibility of the vital interdependence between different living species, the impact of information, communication, and beliefs. Possible questions are:

  • How does the pandemic inflect the religious narratives on life and death, the need for faithful mutual assistance and solidarity, as well as the need for authoritative figures and texts?
  • How does the current situation impact the relations between religious groups in society and their discourse?
  • How does the agenda of radical religious groups change in the COVID-19 context and in face of the “State of exception” style policies established by regional governments?


Host institution: SEA Junction (Backup: ALTERSEA)

Chairperson: Serina Abdul Rahman (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)


Hamzah Fansuri (Heidelberg University, Germany) – Hijrah Phenomena among Indonesian Celebrities: Contesting Identity through Urban Mobility

Abstract: This presentation analyzes the struggle of the hijrah community for their identity in the context of increasingly plural urban public spaces. Although several studies have attempted to examine this group of hijrah, most have focused on new media (see: Nisa, 2018; Slama, 2017; Akmaliah, 2020), and only a few have revealed their daily mobilities in urban life. This paper will focus on urban Muslims from the Kajian Musawarah, one of the influential hijrah communities based in Jakarta and a new socio-religious movement.  I will support my argument based on data obtained through extensive literature study. Then, I will use the new paradigm of mobility popularized by Urry (2007), in which there are five interrelated dimensions, namely physical travel, physical movement, imaginative travel, virtual travel, and communicative travel. Thanks to these methodological and analytical entries, this presentation shows that the identity of the Kajian Musawarah‘s members is formed within the framework of what Castells calls « legitimizing identity » (2010): through urban mobility, they contest many social dimensions and define their position within society.

Keywords: hijrah, identity, mobility, urban Muslims, contestation.

Bio & Contact: Hamzah Fansuri is a doctoral student at the Institute of Ethnology, Heidelberg University. Currently, he is working on “Identity and Mobility: Hijrah Phenomena among Urban Muslims in Post-Suharto Indonesia”. Previously, he was graduated with a master’s degree in sociology at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta. In 2015, his master’s thesis published by LP3ES entitled “Sosiologi Indonesia: Antara Kekuasaan dan Reproduksi Pengetahuan”.

Video presentation

Rosnida Sari (University of Jember, Indonesia) The Youth and the Struggle to Build Interfaith Relations in Aceh

Abstract: This paper discusses the challenges of building interfaith relations in Aceh, especially among youth. Aceh, located on the tip of Sumatra Island, is a province famous for its conservatism. Most of the literature talks about sharia law and the history of conflict and establishment of sharia law in Aceh. Not many articles focus on building interfaith relations between Islam and Christianism in this area. This research intends to fill this gap.  There are many youth organizations that try to promote interfaith understanding in their activities. However, the progress of this activism is very slow. This article focuses on the case study of an organization that promotes Muslims-Christians interfaith relations and understanding, called Peace Generation. Utilizing field observation and in-depth interviews for two months in 2020, the researcher found that the topic of interfaith relations is not widely discussed by the youth/youth organizations. It is an insecure feeling for the organization to promote interfaith activity openly to the people. Therefore, it has to find its own way so that the message of interfaith and peace can be shared with the young generation.  

Keywords: interfaith, peace generation, conflict, sharia law, Islam-Christian relation in Aceh.

Bio & Contact: Rosnida Sari is a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Jember. She is also a researcher at the Centre for Human Rights, Multiculturalism and Migration (CHRM2) at the University of Jember. She finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Banda Aceh, her Master’s Degree in Yogyakarta, and her Ph.D. program in Australia. She was a lecturer at State Islamic University in Banda Aceh before moving to the University of Jember in 2019. Her areas of interest are women and politics, women and conflict, women and religion, interfaith, and cultural issues.

Sophia Hornbacher-Schönleber (University of Cambridge, UK) – Marxist Muslims. An Activist Ethics of Social Justice, Equality, and Liberation

Abstract: My proposed paper deals with the ethnographic case of leftist Muslim activists in Java, Indonesia, primarily the group FNKSDA (Nahdilyin Front for the Sovereignty over Natural Resources), who engage in solidarity with peasants affected by agrarian conflicts and advocate people’s sovereignty over natural resources. This merging of traditions – leftism and Islam – is unlikely, given their antagonistic history in Indonesia. My paper argues that rather than employing a merely strategic combination, my interlocutors genuinely aim to create a synthesis of leftist thought and Islam through ethical work.

Recent developments in (Indonesian) Islam – and similarly anthropological research on Islamic morality – have tended to focus on individual personal morality, piety, and self-cultivation (e.g. Mahmood 2005) rather than issues of social responsibility and justice. My case study in contrast shows that it is precisely activists’ emphasis on the values of social justice, equality, and liberation as shared teloi between Marxism and Islam, on which they build their unlikely synthesis. Profoundly reinterpreting Islamic morality, moving away from concerns of individual piety towards matters of social justice, they work to build activist ethics that prioritizes the abovementioned ethical-political values over a coherent metaphysical foundation. In assessing this religious-political conjuncture, my paper brings together anthropological perspectives on ethics and politics and gives a tentative interpretation of these issues in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Indonesia, Islam, activism, social ethics, leftism.

Bio & Contact: Sophia Hornbacher-Schönleber is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge with a strong ethnographic focus on Java, Indonesia. Her research combines political anthropology and the anthropology of ethics. Since her undergraduate studies, she has focused on Indonesian activism and political subjectivities. Her Ph.D. project developed from a MA project on youth activism and anti-capitalist critique in Yogyakarta and centers on FNKSDA, a leftist Muslim group affiliated with the traditionalist Islamic mass organization Nahdlatul Ulama.