Seeing is believing: Female Islamic leadership and visual rhetoric in Southeast Asia

Female Islamic leaders are gaining in prominence. So far, research has been restricted to the role of women in Islamic textual traditions. This project investigates how female Islamic authorities in Malaysia and Indonesia make use of visual images to communicate with their audience and in doing so challenge dominant gender relationships within Islam.

The project centres on the lives, careers and achievements of a number of female Islamic leaders in six regions. The metropolitan centres of Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta are sites of technological innovation, giving rise to new forms of religious authority. Penang/Kedah (Malaysia) and Aceh (Indonesia) are provincial contexts that combine a history of political Islam with matrilocal traditions providing women with a strong position in local communities. East Java and South Sulawesi, finally, are characterized by strong traditions of male orthodoxy.

Using a combination of historical, ethnographic and visual research methods, this project analyzes the social and institutional contexts in which female religious authority is produced and performed, the place of individual religious leaders in local communities, (trans)national politics and media-scales, and the ways in which these cases may be contextualized in shifting repertoires of gendered imagery.


Click here to go back to the full list of research projects ongoing at the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and in collaboration with other departments and institutions.

Related Researchers
Related Links