Commercial Islam: Ramadan Soap Operas and Religion as Consumption in post-New Order Indonesia

Gareth Barkin. Photo credit: Beth Barkin, 2016, all rights reserved.

Colloquium with Gareth Barkin, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Puget Sound

Thursday, April 13, 2017
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

While Indonesia’s burgeoning private television industry has prospered through the country’s democratic transition and the rise of popular Islam, it has remained ideologically constrained by many of the content restrictions established during Suharto’s New Order era. One area in which producers have broken these norms is in the field of religious imagery, and the adaptation of religiously-themed narratives and tropes. This project, based on a long-term ethnographic study of television producers in Indonesia and the social institutions that influence them, explores the strategies and goals behind the industry’s handling of the imagined religious audience.

It asserts that the tension of appeasing cultural conservatives has been redirected by the industry into content that appeals to the much larger demographic of ‘moderate’ Muslims, through the adaptation of narrative conventions and stylistic forms that draw on an array of global media traditions. It examines new genres and conventions invoked by producers in their efforts to both placate and mobilize religious sentiment among Indonesia’s culturally heterogeneous population, arguing that these practices promote a successful, commercial Islam that largely comports with neoliberal subjectivity.

Gareth Barkin is a cultural anthropologist who conducts ethnographic research on media producers’ representational practices surrounding national culture and religion in Indonesia. His work has been supported by the Fulbright program, the National Science Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. He also writes on short-term, faculty-led study abroad pedagogy, and directs the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment program at the University of Puget Sound. His current project concerns the role of for-profit study abroad provision agencies in shaping the character and curriculum of short-term, international academic experiences for American undergraduates.

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Barbara Gaerlan

Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies