Negotiating Space in Diversity: Religions and Authorities

July 2-15, Yogyakarta and Bali, INDONESIA

The 2012 ISSRPL explored the renewal of religious identity and identity claims in the context of Indonesia, a country with a Muslim majority but also historically one of great religious diversity. The transition to democracy in 1998 saw an opening of political space for the expression of multiple social interests based on ethnic, religious, and other identities, while at the same time weakening the authority of both the central government and the military. The combination of these two forces contributed to new trends such as more frequent conflicts between communities; the aspiration to implement shari’a at the local level, which was supported by some secular political parties; and the phenomenon of “religious radicalization.” New barriers between diverse, identity-based communities–as well as within such communities–arose, posing challenges for the creation of a civil, pluralist democracy.

Indonesia is not alone in witnessing the rise of identity politics. In many parts of the world, including in Europe and the United States, the old 19th- and 20th-century political ideologies seem to be receding, as identity becomes the new determinant of politics and the economy. Multiple and new actors, often divided and mobilized on the basis of their identity claims (including prominently, religious ones), compete in the common public sphere, asserting alternative visions of politics and society.

“Our differences are our wealth. We have to cross over our boundaries sometimes but that does not mean we are removing our boundaries.”
(Fellow, 2012)

The 2012 ISSRPL was located in two very diverse places in Indonesia: Yogyakarta, where Muslims are a majority but where other religions also have a strong presence; and Bali, where Hindus are a majority. Comparing and contrasting these different locales allowed participants to reflect on the issues of religious identity using both the Indonesian experience and that of the participants from many different countries.

2012 Local Hosts: Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies and the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies, Graduate School Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia