Understanding Minority/Majority Relations: Lessons from the Indonesian Archipelago

Second Nusantara School of Difference, July 27-August 10, 2019

As an archipelago, Indonesia has long struggled both to defend its unity as well as to advance its founding principle of “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity), which is represented on the Garuda Pancasila (national emblem) and articulated in the Pancasila (Five Principles). The current challenges to such unity in diversity come from heightened tensions between the country’s different political-religious identities, and diverse nationalist groupings. In this year’s Nusantara School of Difference (NSD), we will experience (and learn) how majority and minority relations work themselves out in several different islands and locations within the archipelago. Minority/majority relations in the Indonesian context are best understood as fluid and as providing a continual point of contestation within the political arena and society at large.  They have often been the cause of great tension and even violence between citizens.

The second NSD will explore the changing relations of minority and majority communities in Indonesia as we move between different islands and locations in West Java and East Nusa Tenggara Province.  In West Java, Muslims are in the majority while in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Christians make up the majority of the populace. In both locations, minority populations have very different experiences of the dominant majority, which will become evident as we engage with Shia Muslims, Ahmadiyya, different Christian denominations, Jehovah Witness, and indigenous traditional communities. To understand the contemporary tensions of these majority-minority differences, we will explore the historical background of each community and its impact in the divisions that have emerged.

The 2019 NSD will convene an engaging two-week experiential school aimed at understanding the impact of the majority and minority claims on everyday life. Over the course of the program, we will focus our attention on processes of exclusion (social and otherwise) as well as on the violence faced at times by different minority groups across the archipelago. Listening to the voice of the minorities will allow participants to appreciate the challenge of a state-wide politics of citizenship and the necessity of difference in the living together of minority and majority communities.

The NSD is an affiliate of CEDAR, whose programs combine pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance and civil society, and an open, dialogic, approach to pedagogic practice. Its goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage one another. As with other CEDAR affiliates, the NSD program combines academic courses with intensive group-building processes and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. Its didactic goals are both social and cognitive.

The deadline for applications is April 30, 2019. See application requirements for details.

Questions should be sent to NSD@CEDARnetwork.org.

The NSD is a CEDAR affiliate program working in collaboration with the Institute of Resource Governance and Social Change.