Local tradition and foreign orthodoxy: Shifting paradigms of ritual and literary authority among Indonesian Shi‘a

17 September, 2013
5.30 - 7.00pm

Indonesian Studies Research Seminar
Chiara Formichi, Phd
Assistant Professor in History and Religions of Asia, City University of Hong Kong.

This presentation will focus on the impact of transnational networks between Iran and Indonesia on determining forms of Shiʿa ritual and knowledge (a pattern also applicable to Muslim Southeast Asia in general). The travels of pilgrims, scholars, and texts that started with the Iranian revolution of 1979 became more influential since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1997-1998, and especially so in the late 2000s. Mirroring the spread of Cairene Islamic reformism at the turn of the 20th century, returnees from Qom (Iran) are promoting forms of orthodoxy and orthopraxy deemed more authoritative because they are determined at the ‘centre’ of Shiʿa Islam. This phenomenon has thus initiated a ‘conversation’ (if not a clash) between localized forms of devotion and knowledge, and their foreign counterparts. I will pursue a mapping of communities loyal to the ʿAlid descendants of the prophet Muhammad in Java, analyse the impact of ‘Shiʿa reformism’ illustrating the divergent performative referents embraced by the organizers of commemorative events held on the day of ʿAshura in Jakarta, Bandung and Bengkulu, and point out some similar developments in the field of texts used for the socialization of Shiʿa Islam.

Chiara Formichi received her PhD in the history of Southeast Asia from SOAS (University of London), with a thesis that merged her academic expertise in Southeast Asian Studies (MA, SOAS) with previous foundations in Arabic and Islamic Studies (BA Hons., University of Rome, ‘La Sapienza’). She has held a research fellowship at KITLV Leiden and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Asia Research Institute, the National University of Singapore. Her research and publications have focused on the relationship between Islam and the state, and the impact of this relationship on Asia’s diverse societies, approaching the theme from three border-crossing perspectives: political Islam as a nationalist ideology, secularism as a marker of socio-political modernity, and Shi’ism in Southeast Asia (engaging with issues of sectarianism, orthodoxy and religious pluralism). Her publications include the monograph Islam and the making of the nation: Kartosuwiryo and political Islam in 20th century Indonesia (2012), the edited volumes Shi’ism and Beyond: Alid Piety in Muslim Southeast Asia (forthcoming), and Religious Pluralism, State and Society in Asia (Routledge, 2013), and a number of journal articles and book chapters.

Location: Refectory Room, Quadrangle Building (take stairs down a level in the southwest corner of quadrangle)

Contact:Dr Vannessa Hearman