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Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia

Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia: Magic and Modernity

Edited by Volker Gottowik
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    Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia
    Book Description:

    Starting from the premise that modernity has cast a spell over people around the world, this collection explores the use of magic and religion as modern tools for connection. The contributors draw on new ethnographic research in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Indonesia to show that residents of these countries no longer see religion and modernity as contradictory. Rather, religious ideas and magic practices help people across the region to meet the challenges of modern life. Revising our understanding of religion in Southeast Asia, this collection sheds new light on the multiple modernities that characterize our globalized world.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1627-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 9-30)
    Volker Gottowik

    The present volume aims to analyze the relationship between religion and modernity in terms of the dynamic processes by which they are connected. In doing so, it draws on a variety of discourses in the social and cultural sciences that address the question of modernity by locating it between the conflicting priorities of the dis-enchantment and re-enchantment of the world. In these discourses, it is widely agreed that, particularly outside Western Europe, processes of secularization did not happen as predicted. However, an open question remains: if modernity is not able to transform religion into reason, what, then, can modernity do...

  2. Modern Spirits

    • Spirits in and of Southeast Asia’s Modernity An Overview
      (pp. 33-54)
      Peter J. Bräunlein

      No scholar in the contemporary field of social sciences or cross-cultural studies would question Peter L. Berger’s observation that ‘today’s world is furiously religious’ (Berger 1999: 9). The once well-accepted ‘modernization theory’ of the 1960s and 1970s, which assumed that the introduction of market economies in Asia would not only institute state-directed democracy and neoliberal reforms but also trigger processes of secularization that would push religion out of the public arena and into the private sphere, has turned out to be wrong. Critical reason, a concept shaped by the ‘philosophical enlightenment’ of Kant and others, obviously did not prevail on...

    • The Social Placing of Religion and Spirituality in Vietnam in the Context of Asian Modernity Perspectives for Research
      (pp. 55-74)
      Michael Dickhardt

      The socialist reform policy calleddổi mới(renovation), which started in 1986, has changed Vietnam profoundly. The economic and political reforms triggered processes of transformation that deeply affected all parts of social, political, economic and religious life in Vietnam. Although the Communist Party still claims social and political control and leadership in alliance with a normative modernity, many of the consequences of the reform policy do not fit smoothly into the modernist programme of the socialist state under the Party’s leadership.¹ Particularly in regard to the spheres of religion and spirituality, the Party’s attitude is often ambivalent and ambiguous.² For...

    • Where the Dead Go to the Market Market and Ritual as Social Systems in Upland Southeast Asia
      (pp. 75-90)
      Guido Sprenger

      One of the central threads running through the study of religion in Southeast Asia is the question of what makes religion distinctive. Religion as a field, a system, a functional element – whatever theory one subscribes to – implies a differentiation from other fields, other types of action and communication, other ways of relating events, people and groups. A statement to the effect that religion permeates all social activity in Southeast Asia will not answer this question, nor will the insight that all groups of people or categories of communication have blurred boundaries and easily slip from the grasp of...

    • Modernity and Spirit Possession in Java Horse Dance and Its Contested Magic
      (pp. 91-110)
      Paul Christensen

      In October 2007, some friends invited me to attend a ‘Javanese dance show’ in the evening. Naturally, I agreed. The show was in a village near Mount Merapi outside the city of Yogyakarta where I was spending a semester abroad. Long after sunset, we set out on our motorbikes. A few kilometres outside the city, the fog became so thick that we had to focus on the white road markings just in front of us to avoid crashing.

      Turning off the main road, we rode through a series of sleepy villages, finally arriving at a lively, brightly lit centre, where...

  3. Modern Muslims

    • Hadhrami Moderns Recurrent Dynamics as Historical Rhymes of Indonesia’s Reformist Islamic Organization Al-Irsyad
      (pp. 113-132)
      Martin Slama

      In his analysis of religious dynamics in Java, M.C. Ricklefs, the eminent historian of Indonesia, recalls Mark Twain’s observation that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes’. Twain’s remark leads Ricklefs (2008: 115) to explore ‘the possibility of historical rhymes in the history of Islam in Java’ (see also Ricklefs 2007 and 2012). This chapter, which focuses particularly on Al-Irsyad, an Indonesian reformist Islamic organization established by Arab immigrants from the Hadhramaut, discusses social processes and dynamics that can best be grasped by employing a notion of historical rhymes as sensed by Twain and Ricklefs. By comparing Al-Irsyad’s founding...

    • Mubeng Beteng A Contested Ritual of Circumambulation in Yogyakarta
      (pp. 133-154)
      Susanne Rodemeier

      When President Suharto’s rule ended in 1998, democratic structures were initiated under the national mottoreformasior ‘change’. This was accompanied by a decentralization of administrative structures, as well as the officially abolishment of the censorship of religious and ethnic topics, thus allowing for scrutiny of existing structures and opening the way for new alternatives in various aspects of daily life. On Java, this now includes religious experimentation on an individual basis, often unconstrained by longstanding family traditions. The new freedom has provoked an ongoing dispute over contrasting forms of Islam. Violent Reformers, who are trying to adapt their lives...

    • ‘Muslim Modernities’ in Makassar and Yogyakarta Negotiating ‘the West’ as a Frame of Reference
      (pp. 155-174)
      Melanie V. Nertz

      It cannot be questioned that the project of modernity in Indonesia was sought to be achieved in the past with a strong reference to the West. In the colonial era as well as under Suharto’s New Order regime (Orde Baru), modernization was equated with Westernization and the taking up of Western norms and practices. After 1998, though, the country has experienced a tremendous political change (democratization and decentralization) and has seen the increasing influence of religion, evoking the question of the West’s recent significance for modernization in Indonesia. This chapter explores Muslim Indonesians’ imaginations, knowledge of and experiences with the...

    • Cosmological Battles Understanding Susceptibility and Resistance to Transnational Islamic Revivalism in Java
      (pp. 175-190)
      Thomas Reuter

      A wave of religious and cultural revivalist movements has swept through Indonesia since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998. A desire to revive moral values perceived to be under threat by the advent of a late modern consumer society can now be observed across the full spectrum of the archipelago’s many different religious, ethnic and regional identities, and not just among Muslims. In part, this revival reflects a new freedom of expression and political organization that arose in the subsequentReformasiperiod and has allowed Indonesians to voice revivalist sentiments and associated political aspirations openly for the first...

  4. Modern Traditions

    • Modes of Interreligious Coexistence and Civility in Maluku
      (pp. 193-216)
      Birgit Bräuchler

      Evangelical churches are spreading like wildfire throughout the world, Islamic faith is becoming increasingly fashionable, religious radicalization is on the move, and religious conflicts frequently make it into the headlines. Contrary to widespread assumptions that secularism and modernity will bring about the demise of religion, we encounter its return and revitalization in many parts of the world (Hornbacher & Gottowik 2008: 19). In parallel and contrary to the assumption of globalization causing the demise of local cultures, we are encountering a worldwide trend to revive traditions and the emergence of so-called modern traditions. This represents an effort to return to one’s...

    • Ethnicity and Violence in Bali And What Barong Landung Says about It
      (pp. 217-236)
      Volker Gottowik

      The perception of Bali is influenced by numerous ethnographic accounts that provide descriptions of this island and its population as peaceful, harmonious and apolitical. Among the most prominent of these accounts are Gregor Krause’s 1920 narrative of the local farmer who continued to plough his fields while Balinese royalty were being eradicated by colonial troops and ritual suicide (puputan), and – even more influential – Gregory Bateson’s equilibrium theory (1949) according to which transformations in Bali were accepted only when they allow the local population to maintain their traditional way of life. The perception of Bali as a culture where...

    • Contested Moksa in Balinese Agama Hindu Balinese Death Rituals between Ancestor Worship and Modern Hinduism
      (pp. 237-260)
      Annette Hornbacher

      The philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that in the age of Enlightenment, religion as well as political power have to defend their truth claims in the face of a universal reason. Consequently, religion was not abandoned altogether, but rather became internally rationalized by the attempt to replace this-worldly forms of spiritual experience and charismatic power with a logically coherent religious doctrine. From a sociological point of view, Max Weber thus describes modernization as a process of increasing and comprehensive rationalization that results in a secular world view or in a pervasive ‘disenchantment’ of the world that corresponds to the Calvinist and...

    • Good Girls Christianity, Modernity and Gendered Morality in Tanah Karo, North Sumatra
      (pp. 261-280)
      Karin Klenke

      Twenty-six young women and one anthropologist listen attentively to Mrs. Ginting, who is teaching ‘Good Behaviour’ (etika¹) in the Christian Women’s School (Kursus Wanita Kristen, KWK) in Berastagi in the regency of Tanah Karo, North Sumatra. Mrs. Ginting is a lively and rhetorically gifted lady of about 50 years and – as the wife of the owner of the biggest private hospital in the regency – a member of the local elite. Today she explains the moral intricacies of sex. The prospect of an open discussion about sex is the cause for the audience’s breathless attention, as in local discourse,...

    • Bukit Kasih, the Hill of Love Multireligiosity for Pleasure
      (pp. 281-298)
      Judith Schlehe

      Recent scholarly literature is largely in agreement that, in light of the diverse and widespread significance of religions today, classic secularization theories have become obsolete (see Schlehe & Rehbein 2008a; Cannell 2010). As a driving force behind cultural identity that is embedded and continuously negotiated in the social processes of everyday life, institutions and communicative systems, religion is taken substantially more seriously when its re-politicization is taken into consideration. In view of the potential for conflict in emotionally loaded religious differences that are instrumentalized by the various parties, a variety of initiatives have been launched promoting interreligious dialogue. In this chapter,...