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2015 ICAS Dissertation Prizes in the Humanities


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.


Dismantling the ‘Fortress’: East Java and the Transition to Suharto’s New Order Regime (1965-68)
Vanessa Hearman
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Humanities’ – Shortlisted Title

ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Most Accessible and Captivating Accolade

This study examines the experiences of leftist political activism in East Java, Indonesia following independence and during the repressive transition to Suharto’s New Order regime between 1965 and 1968. After enjoying rapid and stable growth from the second half of the 1950s, the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) was scapegoated for organising a ‘coup attempt’ and masterminding the killing of six Army officers in Jakarta. The PKI was severely repressed from October 1965, with party members and sympathisers being killed and imprisoned. I analyse how this repression impacted on East Java, through case studies of individuals, examining their reactions to the violence and their attempts to survive in the larger cities of Java. The study emphasises the importance of both individual agency and collective organisation and how the persecution of the political left influenced the nature of subsequent New Order rule. In turn, military efforts to cement New Order victory over communist and pro-Sukarno forces by a decisive defeat of remnants of the PKI in south Blitar, East Java in 1968 highlights the much neglected ‘afterstory’ of the 1965-66 repression.

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Visions of the Future: Imagining Islamic Modernities in Indonesian Islamic-themed post-Suharto Popular and Visual Culture
Leonie Schmidt
ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Humanities’ – Shortlisted

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and in the midst of modernization and Islamization. This confronts Indonesian Muslims with the questions what it means to be modern and Muslim, and whether or not Indonesia is on the ‘right’ path toward the ‘right’ kind of modernity. Popular and visual culture provides perfect tools to reflect on these questions and to publicly fantasize modernities. Indonesian Islamic-themed popular and visual cultural products both display and construct Islamic modernities, thereby feeding into a global future of the Islam and offering visions of these futures. In my dissertation, I zoom in on these products and ask how Islamic modernities and futures are imagined, negotiated, and contested in Indonesian Islamic-themed popular and visual culture.

Islamic-themed popular and visual culture is a relatively new phenomenon in Indonesia as expressions of religion in popular culture were banned during the Suharto regime (1966-1998). Now, in the post-Suharto era (1998-), Indonesia’s large Muslim community takes advantage of the newly liberated public sphere to participate in public discourses related to the alleged path of modernity. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs imbue cultural products with religious as well as economic value (Widodo 2008). The dialectics between a public Islamic revival and a commodification of Islam results in a booming Indonesian Islamic popular and visual cultural sphere, that is a key site to experiment with Islamic modernities, a site where global modern Islamic futures are imagined, negotiated, and contested. I propose that Islamic-themed popular and visual culture negotiates different styles of modernities, and that these negotiations must understood in the context of Indonesia’s postcoloniality and in the context of our current global condition. I show that many of these imagined futures display a strong consciousness of global (negative) discourses of the Islam, which are circulating in our post-9/11 world. Indonesian Islamic-themed popular and visual culture offers Muslims constructive solutions while showing how religiosity, openness, tolerance, and modernity go hand in hand. I suggest that this specific version of an Indonesian Islamic modernity may in the end be the best defense against reactionary radicalism. In Indonesia, the widening gap between the rich and the poor is helping the recruitment for radical Islamic groups – although these groups are often very vocal, they do not appeal to large segments of the population (cf. Hefner 2009; Van Bruinessen 2002). A version of modernity that promotes piety and that avoids radical orthodoxy may here provide a fruitful alternative for a modern future of the Islam.

Modernity and modernization are rather abstract concepts. To make these concepts more tangible, I take one middle class Muslim girl’s encounters with modernity as a lead in selecting case studies. I identified three overlapping ‘spheres’ in which her negotiations with modernity take place: the leisure sphere, the media sphere, and the creative sphere. I selected five case studies that take place in these spheres and that I examine for their engagement with modernities. These case studies are: (visual decorations in) the space of the shopping mall during Ramadan, Islamic rock music, Islamic self-help books, Islamic-themed films, and contemporary Islamic-themed art. I propose that these case studies form sites for creative experiments with Islamic modernities, but simultaneously constitute sites that attempt to discipline people into desired modern citizens that are fit to participate in globalized Indonesian modernities. Hence, Islamic-themed popular and visual culture not merely displays visions of global modern Islamic futures. Since it is targeted at the generasi muda Islam – Indonesia’s ‘next generation’ of urban middle class Muslim youngsters – it could play a key role in the aspired Islamization of Indonesia and the shaping of a modern Muslim nation.

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Music and Media in the Dutch East Indies: Gramophone Records and Radio in the Late Colonial Era (1903-1942)
Philip Bradford Yampolsky

ICAS Dissertation Prize 2015 ‘Humanities’ – Ground-Breaking Subject Matter Accolade

This dissertation is intended as an ethnomusicological contribution to the history of music and media in Indonesia. It deals with topics and resources that have never been systematically examined for this region: gramophone records and radio broadcasting from the years before World War II, the last years of Dutch colonial control. The gramophone records are our only documentation of the sound of Indonesian music in the years before World War II. This dissertation tries to identify (and to some extent provide) the information one needs in order to understand the records and, by extension, stylistic trends during the pre-war period. Ultimately it is meant as an argument for the importance of making use of historical recordings and discography in ethnomusicology. The use of gramophone records from before World War II (“78s”) in musicology and ethnomusicology is growing. Robert Philip has done a careful study (1992) of changes in performance practice in European art music, based on comparisons of early gramophone records with later practice; Ali Jihad Racy’s dissertation (1977) is an extensive examination of the changes in Egyptian music documented in recordings; Sean Williams has a section in her 2001 book on what recordings tell about early practice of <italic>tembang Sunda</italic>; and Philip Schuyler (1984), Anne Sheeran (1997), Regula Qureshi (1999), Steven Hughes (2002), and Amanda Weidman (2006) have all looked at what Qureshi calls “gramophone culture” in reference to specific genres or categories of music in, respectively, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and, for both Hughes and Weidman, South India. The chapters here on <italic>kroncong</italic? and on the trajectories of popular music genres (chapters 5 and 6) are studies in this vein. The other chapters, however, seek to put these genre studies into the larger context of all the music recorded for the DEI and the music broadcast on DEI radio. This is perhaps the most unusual feature of the dissertation: it draws on the results of tabulations summarizing the entire range of record production and radio broadcasting in the DEI, and it combines those results with musicological understandings of genre and idiom to study the nature, processes, and aftermath of mediatization.
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