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2015 ICAS Dissertation Prize – Social Sciences


International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) | Book Prize

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
Tutin Aryanti
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
Tallyn Gray
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Shortlisted
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Ground-Breaking Subject Matter Accolade

The Cambodian genocide and its aftermath are unique in that key leaders are on trial thirty years after their regime fell. This creates particular problems : the UNbacked trials (ECCC) assume the normative aims of the transitional justice paradigm, but exist in context of multiple ‘transitions’ preceding or running concurrent to them, creating complex competing and complementary ideas about what constitutes ‘justice.’ Over the previous thirty years transition was a social process; alongside legalistic input it included (and still includes) religious discourse, ceremony, ritual and modes of expression not employed or recognised in courts. This thesis concerns the many and dynamic ways in which the concept of justice is discussed, narrated and manifested both inside and outside formal mechanisms. The thesis concludes that the meaning of justice resides in a nexus of memory, time and imagination emergent from the act of telling the story, in a way that effectively lodges it within intergenerational cultural memory. Justice is a process without fixed ends. Justice necessarily involves narrative; the way the past is narrated is key to the application and realisation of justice. Expanding on Lyotard’s theory of Grand Narratives, I contend that justice narrates itself through ‘phrase regimes’ which I explore within three legalistic processes : the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal , the trial of Pol Pot , and the narrative streams emerging from the hybrid United Nations/ Royal Government of Cambodia Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) . I contend each of these demands narrative conformity to ideological and political templates (Marxism, Liberalism). I further contend that these grand narratives collapse in Cambodia. Their limitations are exposed on encounter with what Ricoeur calls ‘the small voices of history.’ In ‘small’ narrations, via socio-cultural processes such as religious ritual, legalistic narratives of justice may overlap, but the individual voices often transgress, or are marginalised by, the grand narratives. The latter part of the thesis goes on to explore transition and justice from ‘outside’ legalistic mechanisms, and discusses ideas of justice arising from within the society in whose interests these mechanisms allegedly act. Through observing and attending numerous religious ceremonies and personally collecting 59 ethnographic interviews with monks, former KR cadres, witnesses, civil parties, historical and cultural figures from multiple communities in 10 provinces in the country I have established some basis for situating individual voices into a specifically Cambodian intellectual context.

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Becoming Better Muslims: Religious Authority and Ethical Improvement in Aceh, Indonesia
David Kloos

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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