KITA Discourse Series 7/2018: Islamization and Ethnic Identity in Java: Some Linguistic Evidence, 12 July 2018

On 12 July 2018 (Thursday), KITA Discourse Series No. 7/2018 was held with the following particulars:

Title: Islamization and Ethnic Identity in Java: Some Linguistic Evidence
Speaker: Prof. Joel Kuipers, George Washington University
Venue: KITA Meeting Room

Abstract: Amid rising concern about populism, intolerance and extremism (Van Bruinessen 2018, Jones 2018), much scholarly attention has been devoted to the “Islamization” of Indonesia and, specifically, Java (Ricklefs 2012; Hefner 2011). This presentation evaluates political, sartorial and other kinds of evidence for Islamization, and proposes a linguistic approach to the study of Islamic piety. Focusing on the uses of the Arabic language as an indicator of subjective orientations to Islamic values, the study presents findings based on a dataset of 3.7 million names, hundreds of interviews, observations of the role of Arabic in mosques, schools, everyday conversations, and social media. The results provide a new perspective on a complex and shifting Islamic public sphere in a rapidly developing consumer economy.

About the Speaker: Prof. Joel Kuipers (Ph.D. 1982, Yale University) is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at George Washington University in Washington DC, U.S.A.. Beginning in 1978, Prof. Kuipers began nearly three years of ethnographic and linguistic research into a distinctive style of poetic ritual speech among the Weyewa people of the eastern Indonesian island of Sumba. Through intensive recording, transcription and analysis of ritual performances, he examined how the mastery and use of a parallelistic style of ceremonial discourse established the cultural authority of individuals, lineages and sacred spaces. Beginning in 1990’s, he analyzed the role of language ideologies in the rapid decline of ritual speech on Sumba, and the rise of the Indonesian national language as the language of political and religious authority. Since 2000, he has carried out extensive video ethnographic analyses of the use of authoritative language in Indonesian courtrooms, and other settings in Indonesia, for example, language ideologies of Indonesian Islamic piety.