An ornate Indonesian mosque by a water pool

Compliant Citizenship: On the Islamic Authority of the Indonesian State

Wednesday 18th November 2015; 2.00 - 4.00pm; Room B.13, 32 Lincoln’s Inn Field (32L)
Speaker: Dr Nicholas Long; Chair: Dr Kirsten Schulze

To fully understand the ‘arts of government’ requires identifying the ethical infrastructures over which the state presides and within which it is embedded. Attending to the distinctive ‘economy of merits and faults’ characterizing neo-modernist Islam in Indonesia can thus provide new answers to the long-standing anthropological puzzle of why citizens should ratify the state’s authority whilst simultaneously disparaging it.

I begin by analyzing how the difficulty of accurate moral perception within Indonesia’s Riau Islands Province leads citizens to abrogate their own responsibility through agentive compliance with a state that has constituted itself as an Islamic actor. Building on Lacanian and Berlantian theories of political psychology, I then show how the principles of Islamic authority allow psychic attachments to the Indonesian state to persist. This points to a distinctive modality of state power in which sovereign authority is grounded not in physical force but the creation and maintenance of moral ambiguity. 



Nicholas Long is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, and Centre Associate at the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre.



Kirsten Schulze is Deputy Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre and Associate Professor in International History at LSE.