2015 ICAS Dissertation Prize – Social Sciences
The ICAS Book Prize (IBP) has been established by the International Convention of Asia Scholars in 2004. It aims to create an international focus for publications on Asia while increasing their worldwide visibility. The biennial ICAS Book Prize is awarded for outstanding English-language works in the field of Asian Studies.
Breaking the wall, preserving the barrier: gender, space, and power in contemporary mosque architecture in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Winner
Sex segregation, particularly one that is reinforced in the name of religion, is often blamed for fortifying gender discrimination in society as a whole. This dissertation examines this assumption in Islamic society and investigates how such segregation may actually benefit Muslim women. This dissertation specifically asks how sex segregation has been defined among Muslims in Yogyakarta (Indonesia), who holds the authority to form the definition, and how gender separation is translated into mosque spaces and internalized through societal life. Guided by postcolonial feminist theory and poststructuralist visual theory, it further questions not only how gender conceptions permeate the architectural space of the mosque but also how architectural space helps to shape the larger landscape of gender relations. The mosques of Yogyakarta, comprising Masjid Gedhe Kauman, Musalla ‘Aisyiyah, Musalla Ar-Rosyad, Masjid Keputren, and Masjid Panepen, and the ‘Aisyiyah organization (founded in the early twentieth century) provide a case study for studying how sex segregation is imposed through social and spatial practices. Using data obtained through ethnographic research (participant observation and in-depth interviews) and archival records pertaining to the establishment of these mosques, which include mosques exclusively for women and prayer spaces set aside for them within the congregational mosque, the architectural layout of the mosques is revealed as a spatial translation of the control of the gaze upon women and their sexuality. The control is a disciplinary mechanism of spatial and visual segregation that privileges men and posits the mosque as a space for men. Yet despite this apparent discrimination, segregation can also facilitate women’s access to resources in public space such as the mosque. Because the Javanese mosque as an institution provides space for the express use of women, and thus opportunities for their leadership in that context, it serves as an important political space. By examining how gender difference is accommodated and controlled in these five mosques, this dissertation seeks to provide a model of analysis in architectural studies that may be broadly applicable to promote social justice in the religious sphere.
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Justice and Transition in Cambodia 1979 – 2014: Process, Meaning, and Narrative
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Shortlisted
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Ground-Breaking Subject Matter Accolade
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Becoming Better Muslims: Religious Authority and Ethical Improvement in Aceh, Indonesia
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Shortlisted Title
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Most Accessible and Captivating
Aceh is commonly seen as a paradigmatic case for the development of conservative Islam in Indonesia. The Acehnese are known as a particularly pious people. During the past decade, the provincial government has implemented a local formulation of Islamic (Shari’a) law, which includes, among other regulations, an Islamic penal code aimed at punishing deviant behavior. In reality, however, ordinary Acehnese are often uncertain how to be, or how to become, a ‘good’ Muslim. Developing a concept of religious agency, this dissertation analyzes how the everyday moral stances, practices and strategies of ordinary Acehnese Muslims interact with the universal norms and structural constraints posited by the normative forces of the state and religious experts. Thus, it counters the common view that conflates Acehnese religiosity with an essentialized imagination of Acehnese piety and fanaticism. Political Islam, I argue, produces space for action as much as it produces constraints.
This argument resonates with a trend in the anthropology of Islam that emphasizes personal piety and religious experience. In contrast to some recent influential studies, however, I am not primarily concerned with notions of pious perfection, or the modes of self-discipline associated with the contemporary revival of Islamic activism and political Islam. Instead, I argue that more attention should be given to the workings of doubt, reflection, moral ambivalence, indifference, and senses of imperfection and failure as being inextricably part of ethical formation. Age, life phase, and generational interactions are therefore a major theme.
Aceh, the most western province of Indonesia, has a violent history. The most recent conflict ended in 2005, when the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement signed a peace agreement. This was one year after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami annihilated much of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and the Acehnese West coast. The near-mythical status of Acehnese piety is due partly to the fact that, except for the work of James Siegel several decades ago, very little ethnographic research has been conducted among coastal Acehnese communities. Becoming better Muslims is based on a combination of historical research and ethnographic fieldwork. Written sources were collected in The Netherlands and Indonesia. Ethnographic data were collected at two different field sites, a tsunami-affected neighborhood in the provincial capital Banda Aceh and a rural village in Aceh Besar district, in the period 2008-2012.
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