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Sawerigading vs. Sharia: Identities and Political Contestation in Decentralised Indonesia

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image of Asian Journal of Social Science

Islamist groups are attempting to shape Indonesia’s political landscape post-New Order through advocating local regulations based on sharia in districts newly empowered by regional autonomy. In the province of South Sulawesi, which was gripped by a separatist Islamic rebellion in the 1950s and 1960s, the former rebel leader, Kahar Muzakkar, is invoked in a movement to implement sharia-based local regulations. However, the politics of decentralisation are also associated with a resurgence of local cultural identities, which embrace non-Islamic traditions. In Muslim South Sulawesi, these claims have been expressed through the ceremonial re-installation of local traditional rulers and performance of public ceremonies to care for the sacred regalia that legitimate authority, but also through government-funded seminars that explore distinctive Bugis and Makassarese cultural traditions. These claims to power can be understood as a reaction to the taming of cultural difference by the Suharto regime, but they also represent vehicles for local elites to assume power. Based on an analysis of one of the district cultural seminars and accompanying cultural festival, this paper examines the manner in which cultural traditions are strategically mobilised in South Sulawesi, in a rival movement to the Islamist claims to implement sharia.

Affiliations: 1: The Australian National University


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