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TAPSA: Rafadi Hakim, Agama: Religion, Social Difference, and Relationality in Eastern Indonesia

March 11, 2021 - 5pm

Virtual Event

Rafadi Hakim, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, The University of Chicago

Contemporary ethnographic work in Indonesia has extensively analyzed the development of modernist religiosity as a form of national belonging. Beyond civic institutions that authorize state-sponsored forms of religiosity, however, is the emergence of religion as an everyday social category that classifies and differentiates moral subjects from co-constitutive Others. In particular, after violent purges against suspected leftists in the mid 1960s, agama (“religion”) has become a prerequisite for moral citizenship under the Indonesian state.

In this paper, I propose that the Indonesian category of agama governs moral forms of relationality in two ways: (1) by mediating one’s own recognition by other Indonesians as a moral subject; and (2) by differentiating moral subjects from those deemed ungovernable and unruly, such as Communists and foreigners.

My aim is to analyze how agama emerges through social interactions between myself, an ethnographer recognized as an Indonesian Muslim, and a youth ministry at a Protestant church in Kupang, a locale in eastern Indonesia. Throughout the duration of my fieldwork, agama was a form of difference that characterized my unconventional relationship to the church congregation. At the same time, however, my interlocutors and I discursively align ourselves through agama as a mutual form of belonging.

By interrogating how agama emerges through everyday forms of interaction, this paper addresses questions of how discursive coproduction realigns forms of relationality, alterity, and difference.

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