Ivana Pražić

PhD candidate
Supervisor: Professor Adrian Vickers
Associate Supervisor: Dr Dwi Noverini Djenar

From subversion to legitimacy: politics of Chinese Indonesian piety in postsecular times
This study focuses on the relationship between Indonesian state and its Chinese subjects. Indonesia’s history has been marked by periods of violence against the citizens and/or residence of Chinese descent. Whereas instances of violence have attracted much scholarly attention there is a lack of study of the regimes that informed Chinese Indonesian body as illegitimate at worst, subversive at best, throughout the country’s history.

Chinese Indonesians as subject of study emerged in the Cold-War era as part of the wider U.S.-led focus on the epistemological control of the overseas Chinese. Much of New-Order sinophobia was structured along U.S.-led anticommunist politics rather than being a continuation of Dutch colonial politics of racial segregation. Indonesian racialising regimes against its Chinese subjects demand an exploration of the conditions to legitimacy that cannot be understood within secular epistemology. For instance, since religion is an obligatory rather than optional condition to citizenship, the three decades of Suharto’s presidency delegitimised Confucianism in an attempt to destroy Chinese sense of ontological order, which is grounded in the theology of descent. The connection between Islam and China was highly unwelcome academic proposal during the New Order regime. Today, however, the proliferation of Cheng Ho-related discourses popularises the argument of the arrival of Islam via China to the archipelago, as well as the long-term presence of Chinese in the insular Southeast Asia.

Due to the theologising effect, rather than secular grounding, of Indonesian subjecthood through pancasila ideology, this research foregrounds the politics of piety of Chinese Indonesians as the crucial site of their subjectivation. It shows that the operation of sinophobic racialising regimes in Indonesian context has been effectuated in theologising, rather than secular-humanist terms, revealing the country’s non-secular democratic modality which has remained understudied in the scholarship on Indonesian governmentality.

About the student

Ivana Pražić earned her B.A. degree in Art History from the University in Belgrade (Serbia) and her M.A. degree in the same field from the Bangalore University (India). In Serbia Ivana has worked as freelance translator and queer activist. Her current academic research explores the operation of various racialising regimes regulating the post-New Order Chinese Indonesian subjectivities. Ivana’s topic is framed within wider research of Indonesian democratic modality, which is theologising rather than secular in effect. Provided the importance of religion in constituting subjectival legitimacy in Indonesia Ivana focuses on the emancipatory effect of the politics of the subversive piety informing numerous sites of parallel Islamic and Chinese (Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian) worshipping across Indonesia.

Selected publications

Book chapters

  • “Belgrade Pride Parade 2010: Queer Politics in Serbia” in Sushila Mesquita, Maria Katharina Wiedlack, and Katrin Lasthofer (Eds.), Import-Export-Transport: Queer Theory, Queer Critique and Activism in Motion. Vienna: Zaglossus, 2012, pp. 97-114
  • “Storyboards in Stone: Outlining the Buddhist Art of Gandhara,” in Saima Zaidi (ed.) Mazaar, Bazaar: Design & Visual Culture in Pakistan, Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with the Prince Clause Fund Library (The Netherlands), 2010, pp. 293-303

Journal articles

  • “Theravada Buddhism and Gender in Indonesia: A (De)Colonized Encounter?” Journal of Feminist Theory Genero (ed. Marina Simić), No. 14 (Belgrade: Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, 2010), pp. 93-128