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Kampung Jawa Tondano: Religion and Cultural Identity.

Ethnography is writing about people. It is an anthropologist's interpretation or analysis of the culture of the people being studied. The role of the anthropologist as an ethnographer through his ethnography is to present to his readers how ideas, beliefs, things, and events, of both the past and the present, have meaning for the people, in their own terms, as realized in their actions and the particular ways they organize their lives. In other words, an ethnography is a description of how and why the people being studied understand and make sense of their existence as part of the world in which they live. It is an ethnographer's interpretation of the people's interpretations of themselves and their world, rather than merely a description of facts.

Such description can only be brought alive and have meaning for and be understood by the readers through the interpretation of the ethnographer. The interpretation of the ethnographer is critical, as it determines the kind of ethnography being presented to the readers. An anthropologist uses a theoretical model, they build upon the selected available theories or models, as a reference for and a guide to their interpretation. These theoretical models are also used to collect data during the fieldwork and for analysing and interpreting data to be presented in the writing of the ethnography. Thus, a theoretical model determines the kind of approach and field methods employed during the fieldwork. There are two different modes of approach in anthropological study. The first is called the emic approach, in which the culture being studied is treated from the people's perspective, and the second is the etic approach, with the culture being studied barred from the people's interpretations; rather the culture is classified into components and analyzed through the anthropologist's theoretical model.

In Kampung Jawa Tondano: Religion and Cultural Identity, Tim Babcock is using the etic approach. This book is an ethnography focusing on the religion and cultural identity of the Javanese of Kampung Jawa in Tondano, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. This was Babcock's Cornell University Ph.D., based on his fieldwork from January 1974 to June 1975. His field research was combined with library research on historical data from archival materials, especially on the founders of Kampung Jawa, in order to reconstruct Kampung Kawa history.

The author describes both ethnographic and historical phenomena with a focus on Islamic religion in its intertwining with a Javanese ethnic identity. He shows the processes of change and persistence of the Javanese culture of Tondano, as expressed in religious rituals and sociocultural identity. The main purpose of this book is to show that the Kampung Jawa community of Tondano is a special or a unique village, due to its unique history, i.e., it is a Muslim Javanese community surrounded by the majority of Christian Minahasans, the natives of the area. Kampung Jawa of Tondano was born in 1830, when the Dutch settled some sixty captured Muslim Javanese fighters of the Jaya War (Perang Diponegoro) in that area. These exiles, who were mostly male warriors, led by Kyai Mojo, their leader in the Java War, were sentenced by their Dutch captors to live there permanently. They married the local Minahasan women, whom they converted to Islam, as well as other women who came and settled in Kampung Jawa Tondano. To this day they maintain their Islamic religion and Javanese culture, especially the life cycle rituals as attributes of their identity as Muslim Javanese, a Javanese of Tondano (Orang Jawa Tondano, or Jaton as they call themselves and are called by others in Minahasa and North Sulawesi).

In his ethnography, Babcock looks at religion as a religious field, rather than as a culture (cf. Clifford Geertz's approach to religion). This religious field, a model developed by Tambiah in studying Thai religion, is constructed based on the researcher's scientific logic combined with impressions of certain significant symbols of the culture being studied. It is basically a sphere of religious activities comprising rituals and the people's participation in such rituals. Through this religious field Babcock constructs ideal types to measure and evaluate the sociocultural processes related to religious activities in order to be able to identify the cultural theme and/or worldview of the Tondano Javanese Muslim. Furthermore, by looking at the Islamic history of the Tondano Javanese, through his etic or outsider approach, he tries to look at the problem of Tradionalist and Reformist Islam, and to look at these two configurations as having different roots and responses to modernity. He concludes that the Tondano Javanese is basically a traditionalist Muslim, and thus, will not be converted to reformist Islam.

Like most anthropologists who use such a model, the author is stuck within his own approach. He sees things and events or phenomena through his model and at the same time he does not see things, events, and phenomena because they are not seen by his model. He sees phenomena as significant as his model sees them, while such phenomena actually are seen as trivia or not significant by the people; and vice versa. Take the example of the inability of this model to identify the real religion of the traditionalist Tondano Javanese. Because the concern of the model is to identify rituals and their componential analysis within the realm of the religious field, the nature of the traditionalist Islam of the Tondano Javanese which is basically the teachings of the Tharekat Sotoriyah, is not well known by Babcock.

Another problem is that of the identification of the Tondano Javanese, which if we follow Babcock's analysis and interpretation, is basically an output of their religion and their descent from Javanese male parents. If one looks at the problems of ethnic group, ethnic identification, and ethnicity as developed by Frederik Barth. ["Introduction", in Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969), pp. 9-38], it can be seen that ethnic group or ethnicity emerges out of and within ethnic interaction. Edward M. Bruner's dominant culture hypothesis. ["The Expression of Ethnicity in Indonesia", Urban Anthropology, edited by A. Cohen (London: Tavistock, 1974, A.S.A. Monograph No. 12), pp. 251-80], could have helped in looking at the relationships between the Tondano Javanese and the Minahasans in various spheres of activity and how these affect the ethnicity of the Tondano Javanese. Rather than concentrating so much on the religious field, the author could have considered these models.

Asides from criticism concerning the ethnography of the Tondano Javanese, mentioned above, this book is worthy of mention as one of a few dedicated to the study of the Javanese who for generations have lived outside Java. Such studies inform us of the processes of change and maintenance of Javanese culture and identity, and thus broaden our understanding of such cultural processes, including religion, in the maintenance of Javanese ethnic identification. See also P. Suparlan [The Javanese in Surinam: Ethnicity in an Ethnically Plural Society (Tempe: Arizona State University, 1995)] on the Javanese in Surinam.

To conclude this review, I would like to mention that one major strength of this book is the elaborate work on the details of the data and the interpretations. This is especially true in respect to Babcock's historical records of the genealogy of the Javanese of Kampung Jawa Tondano. Gadjah Mada University Press should also be praised for making valuable studies such as this available to a domestic Indonesian market.

Parsudi Suparlan University of Indonesia
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Author:Suparlan, Parsudi
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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