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Suhadi, "I Come from a Pancasila Family": A Discursive Study on Muslim-Christian Identity Transformation in Indonesian Post-Reformasi Era.

Suhadi, "I Come from a Pancasila Family": A Discursive Study on Muslim-Christian Identity Transformation in Indonesian Post-Reformasi Era. Interreligious Studies 6. Zurich and Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2014. Pp. 242. 34,90 [euro], paper.

The awakening of religious ideology has been a salient feature of Indonesian society since the fall of the New Order political regime in 1998. Central to Suhadi's study are questions about how disruptive the assertion of strong religious identities is in Indonesia's religiously divided society and what factors mitigate the elevation of religious identity above other identities and enable co-existence. Based on his dissertation research--itself part of a larger comparative project in the narrative study of religion at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands--the author offers a discursive analysis of twenty-four focus-group discussions (FGD's) with Muslim and Christian participants from the Central Javanese city of Surakarta. Examining the communicative practices in the FGD's--how participants speak about themselves as well as about and with the religious other--Suhadi highlights the flexible and contingent nature of participants' identification practices that allow him to make a convincing argument in favor of a shift from social-identity to multiple-identity theories in the study of religion.

With its emphasis on fluidity and hybridity, the study contributes to a growing body of scholarship that criticizes an overemphasis on broad categories of social identity, such as religion, while neglecting other aspects of identity that cut across those broader social identities. Its particular contribution lies in the author's attention to the role that social institutions, such as shared social knowledge and practices, play in intrareligious struggles as well as for tolerance across religious-identity lines. Javanese language and customs as well as culturally significant concepts, such as Pancasila, furnish just two examples of the types of shared knowledge and practice participants in the FGD's draw on when prioritizing common civic rather than separate religious identities. Forming the heart of the study, the chapters on the FGD's offer a compelling first-hand look at the discursive strategies at work in the construction of hybrid identities.

The detailed attention to the FGD's comes at the price of leaving the author only a short final chapter to consider the work's theoretical contributions to the study of identity transformation. Questions left open by the brevity of the theoretical reflections include the study's relationship to a wider array of related approaches, such as cosmopolitan theory with its themes of the familiar and the strange in valuing others. A productive question to be pursued further would be how the study's central insight into the importance of an institutional dimension constituted by shared cultural practices relates to scholarship on cosmopolitanism, which frequently stresses more personal elements of social-identity formation. These open questions, however, do not take away from the project's success in questioning notions of unique founding conditions for the accommodation of religious diversity. Against normative conceptions of multiculturalism that describe privatization and marginalization of strong religious identities as a prerequisite for intercultural and interreligious understanding, Suhadi's study underscores the need to pay attention to the distinctive cultural resources linked to tolerance that are available and in specific local contexts, which can enable civic coexistence.

Florian Pohl, Oxford College, Emory University, Oxford, GA
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Author:Pohl, Florian
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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