The Bureaucratisation of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia
Based at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Germany), the 'Bureaucratisation of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia' research group is led by Dr Dominik Müller, a former Visiting Academic ofthe Asian Studies Centre.
Following the popular waves of Islamic resurgence, state-sponsored Islamic bureaucracies have become influential societal actors in Southeast Asia, particularly in countries where Muslim populations play a significant political role. The governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have in diverse ways empowered ‘administrative’ bodies to guide Islamic discourse. Although their approaches, motivations and spheres of influence differ widely, they share the intention to formalize classificatory schemes of Islam and create binding rules for engaging in public communication about it.
The Junior Research Group will investigate the bureaucratization of Islam and its socio-legal dimensions from an anthropological perspective, with a particular focus on the state's exercise of ‘classificatory power’ and its actual workings on the micro-level. The project argues that the bureaucratization of Islam far transcends the boundaries of its institutions. Focusing on diverse empirical contexts, the group will scrutinize how the imposition of formalized schemes of Islam – a transformation of Islam into the codes and procedures of bureaucracy – has socio-legal consequences that penetrate deeply into public discourse and the everyday lives of various affected social actors. The project also asks how the bureaucracies’ classificatory practices and micro-politics of power resonate with social realities among the wider population and how social actors actively react to them, always with the intention of going beyond unidirectional ‘cause–effect models’ that overstate the power of official policies. Conceptually, the project treats the bureaucratization of Islam not just descriptively as an empirical fact, but as a larger analytic phenomenon to be theorized in comparative perspective. Grounded in long-term fieldwork, focusing on actors' perspectives and positioned in anthropological debates, the project intends to generate a new, ethnographically grounded understanding of contemporary Islamic discourse in the context of state power in Southeast Asia, with implications beyond the region.