Contentious Belonging: The Place of Minorities in Indonesia

Contentious Belonging: The Place of Minorities in Indonesia
Date of publication:  2019
Publisher:  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  282
Code:  BM578
Hard Cover
ISBN: 9789814843492
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Soft Cover
ISBN: 9789814843461
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Robert W. Hefner, Pacific Affairs Vol. 93 No. 3, Sept 2020. 

"The book's thirteen topical chapters are divided into four parts: History and Law, Disability, Sexuality, and Religion and Ethnicity. the editors open the book with a scene-setting review of the historical and legal circumstances of Indonesia's minorities. The editors revisit recent events as well, including the 2016 -2017 campaign against the Chinese-Christian mayor of Jakarta, Islamist campaigns against LGBT activism, the sectarian targeting Ahmadiyah and Shi'a, and the growing prosecution of religious "deviants" under Indonesia's law on religious blasphemy. The authors argue, I think correctly, that lack of legal enforcement and "a growing culture of intolerant Muslim majoritarianism" (10) have worked to undercut major portions of Indonesia's new democracy. 

In the book's conclusion, the analyst Sidney Jones provides an apt reflection on the book's findings. Observing that the category of minority in Indonesia is both malleable and politically charged, she touches on a theme broached by most of the contributors to this volume: that minority-majority relations today seem to be in the throes of a great transition marked by the rise of an intolerant Muslim majoritarianism. 

In both its breadth and policy implications, this is one of the most important books in recent years on social minorities, majorities, and citizenship in Indonesia. It merits reading by all observers of contemporary Indonesia, as well as by researchers concerned with the promise and perils of democracy and majoritarianism today." 

Chong Wu-Ling, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 2020.

"Contentious belonging: The place of minorities in Indonesia is an edited volume that comes at a critical time when many scholars and observers are trying to make sense of the rise of intolerance and oppression on religious, ethnic as well as sexual minorities in the country in recent years. It stems from the Australian National University's thirty-sixth Indonesia Update Conference held in 2018.

Fealy and Ricci ... emphasise that 'Indonesia's treatment of minorities is neither uniform [n]or monolithic' because there are some minorities that rarely or never experienced discrimination and persecution (p. 5). Therefore, this volume is a timely attempt to offer glimpses into the conditions of various minorities within Indonesia and how the power-holders as well as mainstream society have dealt with them in practice.

Overall, this volume provides important insights into the different conditions of various minorities in Indonesia. It is an important contribution to the studies of minorities in the country and would be of greatest use to those with an interest in this area of study."

Wildani Hefni, Asian Studies Review, April 2020.

"This rich and thorough study seeks to identify various segments of "divided" and "sub-divided" minorities in contemporary Indonesia. The editors of this volume, Greg Fealy and Roni Ricci, start by uncovering the darkness of the nationality problem for minorities, in which they may feel a sense of belonging, or not belonging, within Indonesian society. They argue that Indonesia in fact does not celebrate its diversity. They comprehensively address the realities of minorities in Indonesia: when Muslims are considered not to be Muslims, and when Indonesian communities are not considered Indonesian. By taking this point of departure, Fealy and Ricci reveal the rich political dissonance of minorities in Indonesia from the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities and of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, to prejudices against members of the Ahmadiyah and Shi'a communities.

Minorities grapple with the issue of identity as a result of disdainful attitudes of the majority towards them. This book offers a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by minority groups through rich case studies that provide multifaceted perspectives. This book is useful not only for those with an interest in Indonesian state and society but also for a broader public."

Wai Weng Hew, Southeast Asia Research, 2020.

"Greg Fealy and Ronit Ricci's edited volume, Contentious Belonging: The Place of Minorities in Indonesia, is a timely book, examining various aspects of minorities in contemporary Indonesia using different case studies and a variety of perspectives. This book will not only benefit researchers in Indonesian studies, but also those in topics such as minority studies, disability chapters. It begins by outlining historical contexts and legal aspects of minorities in Indonesia, followed by detailed examinations of different kinds of minority groups (namely: disability, sexual minorities, ethnic and religious minorities), and ends with a reflection piece on what constitute minorities and majorities in Indonesia. 

Overall, this book is an important and up-to-date contribution to our understanding not only of the status of minorities, but also their relations with majority populations in contemporary Indonesia. Comparatively speaking, it also contributes to our understanding of the recent global trend of various forms of populism and majoritarianism."

About the publication

Contention has surrounded the status of minorities throughout Indonesian history. Two broad polarities are evident: one inclusive of minorities, regarding them as part of the nation’s rich complexity and a manifestation of its “Unity in Diversity” motto; the other exclusive, viewing with suspicion or disdain those communities or groups that differ from the perceived majority. State and community attitudes towards minorities have fluctuated over time. Some periods have been notable for the acceptance of minorities and protection of their rights, while others have been marked by anti-minority discrimination, marginalisation and sometimes violence. 

This book explores the complex historical and contemporary dimensions of Indonesia’s religious, ethnic, LGBT and disability minorities from a range of perspectives, including historical, legal, political, cultural, discursive and social. It addresses fundamental questions about Indonesia’s tolerance and acceptance of difference, and examines the extent to which diversity is embraced or suppressed.


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